“But I’m Right!”…The Danger of Self-Righteousness

The more time I spend walking with couples, and especially with men in their marriages, the more I witness a handful of common traps that plague most husbands and wives.

I’ve written previously about the danger of what I call “The Fairness Doctrine” that most of us struggle to reconcile ( Blog post on ‘The Fairness Doctrine’ ).  In essence, most of us want fairness in our marriage relationship and we often feel as though things aren’t sufficiently ‘fair.’  Of course, the problem with the fairness doctrine is that ‘fair’ is entirely subjective and things will almost never seem fair in your not-so-objective opinion.

Another common challenge that’s become obvious in the decade of hosting the ‘Marriage Matters’ workshops (www.menyourmarriagematters.com ) for husbands is how commonly a dispute becomes contentious because one or both of the spouses are convinced that they are ‘right’ in their perspective about a given issue. 

I recall a specific example last year when a husband (we’ll call him “Tom”) explained to the other workshop attendees that he and his wife argued the previous week about parenting their teenage children.  The reason he was so adamant in the conflict was that he was confident that his point-of-view was ‘right’ and supported by his experience and biblical principles.  Because Tom was certain he was right, it was an argument he was determined to ultimately ‘win’ (whatever that means in this marriage context).

The sobering truth is that when we’re convinced we are right, our strength of conviction in our self-righteousness will likely compromise our marriage relationship.  It’s just natural (and convenient) to rationalize that our opinion is correct and therefore is rightly and justly defended. 

The challenge of self-righteousness is similar to the plight of the Fairness Doctrine – it’s entirely dependent on the answer to the question: in whose opinion?  You may genuinely believe you are right in your stance but your spouse has an entirely different set of experiences, paradigms, and opinions.     

When two spouses bring their diverse perspectives to any given issue, they’re likely to define ‘right’ in very different ways.  In fact, if you had the childhood experiences of your spouse or suffered the trauma that he/she did, you’d probably have a different perspective than you do today.  Like it or not, we’re all a product of our background. 

My challenge to anyone reading this ‘musing’ is simple: be careful to stand on the principle that your perspective is right.  It may be right from your viewpoint, but not to your spouse. 

Which begs the question – how can I handle these conflicts with more empathy and humility in the future?  I’ll offer three simple suggestions:

  • The next conflict you have with your spouse – ask yourself a question: “Am I defending my position because I’m convinced that I’m right and that my spouse is wrong?”  If the answer is yes, step away from the conflict and reflect on the strong likelihood that your spouse is equally convinced that they are right…from their equally-subjective, and yet similarly-valid perspective.   It will bring a dose of humility to the conflict that will likely shortcut the conflict and help to preserve the relationship.
  • Embrace a new mindset – Devonie and I are very different in many ways but we’ve learned to embrace a mindset that has been incredibly helpful for us.  We’ve decided to be “happily incompatible.”  In fact, one of our favorite adages goes like this, “Just because you’re different, doesn’t mean you’re wrong.”  I know it sounds simplistic but it’s liberating because we’re both choosing, proactively, to love each other in these differences instead of having frustration or disdain for the differences.
  • And finally, ponder the question, “What really matters?” when it comes to conflicts.  We’ll often dig in our heels in an argument with our spouse (when we know we are right of course) and act as though we’re willing to die on that ‘hill’ of an argument.  Truth be told, it’s probably not nearly as important as our pride has made us believe it is and we’ve lost our perspective on what really matters: preserving the trust and safety of your marriage relationship.

I know this sounds so simple and solvable, but it’s likely more difficult than we can fathom.  Is it worth a bit of healthy introspection? 

I always welcome your thoughts!

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The Ultimate Paradox: Humility

If you think (or worse yet, say) you’re humble, you’re not.  Which is exactly the reason that humility is so elusive.

One of the best definitions ever on this topic comes from Author C.S. Lewis who observed that if you met a truly humble person, you wouldn’t walk away thinking they were humble.  The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us.

This topic is near to my heart because it’s integral to a book we published last year on the topic of healthy mindsets called 3 Truths and 7 Mindsets: changing the way we think to experience Jesus’ promise of ‘abundant’ peace, joy and purpose Amazon link

I’ve included below an excerpt from the chapter on humility:

In today’s culture, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t fight a daily battle where pride and selfishness compete for control of their lives because most of us live with an overwhelming sense of self-importance.  The paradox and the challenge is that we can’t really decide that loving God and loving others is our primary calling without a posture of humility.  We also won’t make much progress on the journey to becoming more Christ-like unless the predominance of our pride and selfishness is extinguished. 

Therein lies the struggle to choose humility.

We’re here to serve

Let’s face it – we’re innately tempted to think of ourselves first and foremost.  Some argue we’re born with this tendency; others contend that it’s more of a learned behavior.  Regardless, we operate as though we’re the center of the universe – at least our version of the universe.  And we do so, at least in part, in an attempt to achieve that elusive sense of happiness. 

And yet, Harvard professor Arthur Brooks, an expert on the topic of happiness, commonly cites research that proves that humility is actually positively correlated with happiness and life satisfaction.

This may explain why God calls us to a counter-intuitive paradigm…and mindset.  Specifically, Jesus implores us, …do nothing out of selfish ambition.  Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves (Phil 2:3). 

Our ability to love God and to love others well depends on the degree to which we’re able to choose this mindset of humility.  Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking about yourself less.  And our preoccupation with ourselves is usually the biggest impediment to prioritizing the needs of others. 

The ‘posture’ of humility

All of this sounds great in theory, but what does a genuinely humble person really act like day-to-day?  I feel compelled to confess that the list below is aspirational for me.  We’re all a work-in-process when it comes to humility.  And we get countless opportunities each day to test our humility – many of which we fail because of the grip that our self-interest has on us.  Nonetheless, here are a few observable behaviors and attitudes of the people we all are privileged to witness and admire who are furthest down the path to humility:

  • They don’t boast and tend to avoid the spotlight.  You’ll never see them bragging about their titles, accomplishments or about what they’ve done and for whom. 
  • They give others the credit.  If something noteworthy is accomplished, they’ll always point to the contributions of others rather than their own. 
  • They’re generous – with their money, certainly, but even more so with their time and energy.  And they’ll do so with anonymity whenever possible.
  • Their ‘legacy’ doesn’t matter – because their legacy is all about what they did, which is far less important amongst their priorities.
  • They love others well, including those they may not know well – or at all.
  • They listen a lot more than they talk and they ask great questions of others that makes others feel a genuine sense of interest and care.    
  • They’re willing to admit when they’re wrong – and do so quickly and gracefully
  • And, there are no tasks that are beneath them because they exude a posture of true servanthood…joyfully. 

I know the list above is daunting because it’s so counter to what many of us grew up thinking and believing.  They’re even counter to the culture we live in that screams polar-opposite messages that implore us to think mostly about ourselves and our happiness above all else. 

What about you – what will you choose?  Hiding behind an innate pride or enjoying the liberation and freedom that accompany humility and vulnerability?  It’s a choice we all have dozens of opportunities to make each day as we encounter those that God puts in our path.

I always welcome your thoughts!

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Did God Design Us for a Simpler Life?

Have we, collectively, over-engineered our existence and our lifestyle?  I was having this discussion with a dear friend of mine recently who was challenging our culture’s status quo when it comes to our pace of life. 

We work an extraordinary number of hours.  We get ourselves and our children involved in countless activities – sports, church, and community-related.  We binge-watch entertainment as though it is somehow perishable.  This doesn’t even include the countless emails and texts per day that must be read, answered and often saved for a future-follow-up.  At the same time, today’s research continues to conclude that we’re not getting enough sleep or rest to sustain this relentless pace of life. 

Our calendars are often packed with back-to-back commitments (or even over-lapping).  We have so little time that fast-food as become the cuisine of choice for many.  And if we do find ourselves with a few extra minutes at any point in our day – in the airport or waiting for our food at a sit-down restaurant – we pull our phone out to catch up on the latest social media posts or ‘breaking’ news?

If we’re not careful, we can end up like the proverbial frog in the boiling water – we don’t even realize how damaging our schedule and commitments are to our bodies and our minds because it just feels ‘normal’ (whatever that is).

And for what purpose?  To hide from our fear of not being busy enough?  To keep up with the Jones?  To achieve the much-promised and most-often elusive ‘good life’?  Or is it something else…?

This begs an even bigger question – are we designed for a different existence?  Is it possible that God didn’t design us to run at this break-neck pace?  Do we even have a choice in all of this?  I’ll argue the answer is “yes!”

Think about it in this way – if what really matters in God’s economy is to love God with our whole hearts, mind and body and to love others in an extraordinary way, does that really require that we sustain a pace of life that is warp-speed?  Is it possible this pace isn’t God’s design for us and our existence?

I’m increasingly convinced that we don’t have this ‘pace of life’ thing right in today’s culture.  I’ll contend that God’s original design for all of us who are made in His image is to be mostly rest-filled and relational.  What does that really mean day-to-day? Here are a few examples that likely sound pretty enticing compared to our current existence:

  • Go to sleep shortly after the sun sets and until the sun rises again tomorrow
  • Eat slowly and enjoy the company of our family and close friendships during your meals
  • Walk and explore every day – both for exercise and for the enjoyment of God’s creation
  • Be creative – songs, writing, or anything else that exercises your creative ‘muscles’
  • And worship God – grateful for every gift that we otherwise take for granted because we’re running too fast to recognize them

Does that mean we’ll have less toys and creature comforts?  I think the answer is “yes”.  But we’ll have more time, more peace, more sanity, and a healthier, more sustainable existence for the finite time we have on planet earth! 

What about you?  What pace and what lifestyle have you chosen?  Is it working well?  And perhaps most importantly, what will you ultimately choose?  And, will you be joyful in that choice? 

I always welcome your thoughts…

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What Makes Humans Unique…May be Our Biggest Challenge

This is a re-post from 2016 that elicited a lot of feedback when it was initially posted…

Have you ever thought about what makes humans unique in God’s creation among all other animate beings?  I was struck recently when an author explained that the biggest difference is people’s ability (or obsession) to consider the future and then plan (or just worry) accordingly.  For the most part, every other living being operates entirely in the moment.  They don’t consider tomorrow’s weather; they can’t worry about who they’re going to meet tomorrow; they don’t spend one ounce of energy planning or worrying about whether they will be respected by others; or whether they’ll be successful tomorrow or in the balance of their life for that matter.  They simply live. 

Your first reaction may be: thank God we have this ability because our lives would be dramatically different if we didn’t have the mind, the conscience and the gift of intelligence that God has exclusively blessed us with in His creation.

On the other hand, maybe this great mental capacity is actually one of our biggest challenges in life that creates a fundamental source of unhappiness for many people. Perhaps it’s exactly this ability to ponder the future that creates both worry and discontentment.  Maybe we’d all be better off if we operated in some ways like the rest of God’s creatures while not abandoning our uniquely human gifts and skills.

How different would our mindset be if we could take a page from our animate brethren on this planet?  Do any of these attributes sound desirable most days?

  • They live in the moment – observing their surroundings and God’s gift of nature.  They don’t think about much of anything or anyone until it intersects their daily path. 
  • They don’t worry – at all.  Yes, they may have to react to a predator but they spend no waking hours worrying about what might happen in the future.  How liberating would that be to those of us guilty of “fretting” about what might happen tomorrow, most of which never actually occurs. 
  • They don’t spend time thinking about what others think of them – it’s not part of their DNA.  They live content in who they are because that’s exactly how God designed them to live.
  • They know how to rest.  I mean really rest.  Just witness your pet dog on any given day and you’ll see an animal with no guilt, no troubles and thoroughly engaged in the art of rest.  We, on the other hand, tend to view “busyness” as the badge of honor, not rest.  Maybe we have this at least partially wrong…
  • And, they focus their time and energy doing what it is that God designed them to do – being a flower for the benefit of nature or a family pet providing love and affection for their owners. 

Please don’t misread my intent – I don’t wish that we could be as simple-minded as the rest of the animals and nature in our complex world.  What struck me as I read this human vs. animal/nature distinction is that as the most complex, most capable of all of God’s creation, how much better would each of us be if we could take a lesson from the rest of creation and consciously become less pre-occupied with the future and more content focused on today?

Perhaps the opportunity for all of us is an existence where rest and contentment is a badge of honor, not frantically pursuing the next achievement or accolade.  A life with less planning and a better ability to live in the moment and be present – especially in our relationships with those we most love.

I always look forward to your comments!

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Pondering My Post-Career Future…

For many years I’ve assumed that I’d continue working (I help clients to grow their businesses) for as long as I was able to do so.  I enjoy the work.  I love the clients I’m fortunate enough to serve.  And it’s been comforting to know that I’m preserving the savings ‘nest egg’ for every year that I continue to work.

And yet…there comes a time when your grandchildren begin to reach adolescence (the oldest of our 7 grandchildren is now 12 years-old) when you realize that they aren’t going to be very available to their grandparents as they get older and get busier with sports activities, work and when life just moves faster than ever.    

To make things more interesting, my middle daughter, Katie, and her husband, Scott, and three sons will be moving back to the United States from Japan in 2 years and Devonie and I are excited to invest our time and energy into their lives since we’ve been remote from them for the last 10+ years.

So, I’m in the middle of that final career transition.  A transition that, so far, has been fun, challenging and has even exercised some of my strategic-thinking ‘muscles’ in terms of making this transition in a sound way. 

I’m finding that there are many pieces and parts to this transition.  Here are a few of the questions that I’m in the process of pondering currently:

  • In terms of aligning my plans and priorities with Devonie – do we have the same dreams?  How do we thrive and flourish when we’re both not working and have more time and flexibility (I’ve sensed that may couples struggle with this at this stage of life)
  • Financially – when should I start social security payments that I’ve spent the last 45 years paying into the system?  What about the strategy for withdrawing and taking distributions from the IRA/401K savings?  Should I wait until I’m in my 70’s or withdraw these now?  Will taxes go up or down in the future?  I’ve learned that there are more strategies, options and seminars on these topics than I had ever fathomed.
  • How do I ensure that I’m living on purpose (not accidentally)?  I tend to be the most content and fulfilled when I’m investing my time in a few key relationships on topics that I most care about – career, marriage, and even healthy mindsets – how do I balance my time and energy in these areas?
  • How can I plug in with my grandkids?  They (and their parents) have active lives and Devonie and I want to get the balance right between being involved and not being an imposition.
  • Healthwise – how do we stay healthy and active so that we have the best likelihood to stay healthy and active for as many years as possible?  A friend of ours who is 10-years ahead of us contends that this is the foremost priority in this season of life.
  • And perhaps most importantly, how can we use our skills, resources and especially our time in a way that allows us to love those in our circles of influence? 

Above all, I feel this deep sense of gratitude as I look back on the last 40+ years of working for some great companies, working along-side many exceptional people, and serving some amazing clients that have given me the privilege of working with them for so many years.  Most of all, I’m grateful to God for loving me unconditionally…with all of my strengths and in spite of my flaws. 

What about you?  Are there other priority questions that you’re pondering as you approach your career transitions?  Or, are you keeping your head down until you finally reach the age when you can start to consider what you’ll do post-career?  I’m finding that most people do a reasonable job of planning their career and yet do a feeble job of planning their post-career future.

Don’t let this phase of your life sneak up on you.  Prepare for it like you have since you started your career.  It deserves as much strategic thought and preparation as any other life transition if we’re going to do it well.

I always welcome your thoughts and ideas!

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Gratitude Rewires Your Brain

Are you glass half full?  Or half empty?  Are your grateful for what you have…or do you find yourself longing for more?

I found the post below on BreakPoint’s website, which was founded by Chuck Colson.  Not only was the title intriguing but it also seems so relevant given the troubled times we find ourselves in currently.

The question it forces me to ponder: which comes first, favorable circumstances…. or gratitude?  And who gets to define what ‘favorable’ means? 

Our happiness and our physical well-being aren’t simply correlated to our ‘stuff’ or our circumstances; they’re far more dependent on our gratitude for what we’ve already been blessed with – whether meager or abundant. 

In case you want to read the entire article – here’s the link: Gratitude Rewires Your Brain – BreakPoint  For those who’d prefer the excerpt:

In a culture that values authenticity and prioritizes feelings, telling someone to “be grateful” can sound a lot like cheap pop psychology, or even worse, a tone-deaf lack of empathy. However, plenty of studies suggest that being grateful is far more significant to our mental health and well-being than we may realize. “Time and again,” writes British psychologist Christian Jarrett: “Studies have shown that performing simple gratitude exercises, like keeping a gratitude diary or writing letters of thanks, can bring a range of benefits.”  

A large and growing body of studies shows that exercising gratitude leads to better sleep, improved interpersonal relationships, better stress and hormonal regulation, and even reduced physical pain. One notable study followed over 40 participants seeking treatment for depression and anxiety. Half were asked to write letters expressing gratitude before the first few counseling sessions, while the rest formed a control group who attended “therapy-as-usual.” Three months later, both groups were asked to perform a generosity task while being measured by MRI.    

According to Jarrett : “The participants who’d completed the gratitude task months earlier not only reported feeling more gratefulness two weeks after the task than members of the control group, but also, months later, showed more gratitude-related brain activity in the scanner. The researchers described these ‘profound’ and ‘long-lasting’ neural effects as ‘particularly noteworthy’ …. [This suggests] that the more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to this mind-set…. a sort of gratitude ‘muscle’ that can be exercised and strengthened.”

Best of all, writes Jarrett, the positive effects of gratitude can spiral outwardly, creating a culture where gratitude becomes easier for others as well.  
Of course, gratitude is not a magic cure for all that ails us. It is, however, for mental health what vegetables are for physical health: vital, underrated, and sometimes difficult to swallow.  Gratitude helps us see life clearly, and allows us to live life as God intended, to its fullest.  

What about you?  What are you most grateful for?  Are you exercising your gratitude muscles every day?

Most importantly – to whom are you grateful?  To your extraordinary good fortune?  Or to the God of all creation who loves you and wants the best for you.

Our attitude of gratitude will be beneficial to us physically, mentally, and even spiritually!

I always welcome your comments…

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Staying Young…is About Attitude

I’ve been a loyal listener of Pastor Charles Swindoll (Insight for Living – www.insight.org ) for many years because he has a unique gift of sharing wisdom sprinkled with humor in a powerful way. 

Swindoll broadcasted a message recently titled, Staying young as your family grows older.  In case you have 25 minutes to listen: Broadcast Player (insight.org) This topic is increasingly important now that I’m in the third trimester of my life (maybe even the fourth quarter)!

Swindoll was 75 years-old when he delivered this message originally and he contends that staying young is far less about your body, your fitness or even your physical health and far more about your attitude. 

We get to choose each day whether we’ll ‘wear’ a good attitude or a bad attitude and the choice will be obvious to those with whom we spend time.  Here are a few less-than-stellar (i.e., bad) attitudes as we age:

  • Uselessness – “I’m over the hill”
  • Self-pity – “Nobody really cares about me anymore”
  • Fear – “I have to avoid risks and dangers at all cost”
  • Guilt – “I have so many regrets about my past that I can’t seem to shake”
  • Resignation – “It’s likely as good, right now, as it’s ever going to be for the rest of my life”

Do you recognize yourself in any of these?  Or, do you sometimes catch yourself just being ‘cranky’? 

Have you ever noticed that many ‘senior’ citizens tend to be consistently cranky?  It makes me wonder – what’s the source of that crankiness?  Is it some kind of chronic pain that they feel? Is it a sense that the best of life is behind them? Or is it something else entirely?

Here’s the challenge that a “glass-half-empty” attitude represents for faith-filled people: our countenance and our attitude are often the clearest evidence of the impact our faith has in our lives.  In other words, if someone close to you wants to get a sense for how much joy and peace you experience each day – they won’t draw their conclusion based on any words that you say.  Instead, they’ll decide based on your countenance (or the ‘bounce’ in our step), regardless of your circumstances. 

Like it or not, your attitude is your most powerful personal testimony

Which begs the question – what are the attitudes that exude our trust and faith in God and our innate joy  in the later stages of our lives?  Here are a few I’ll offer:

  • Fortitude – “I still have plenty of strength and resilience to accomplish whatever I set out to accomplish”
  • Availability – “I have the time and the energy to be available to those who need my skills and passion”
  • Adventure/wonder – “I’ll look forward to every day to see what, and who, God brings into my path” 
  • Love – “No matter what, I’ll do what I can to share the love of God with those in my circle of influence”
  • Gratitude – “I will constantly be mindful of all of the gifts and blessings in my life – particularly my closest relationships – that make my life so worth living”

In his message, Swindoll also offered 5 tips for staying young:

  • Your mind isn’t old, keep developing it – watch less television and read more!
  • Your humor isn’t over, keep enjoying it – we all look fabulous when we laugh and humor will add years to your life!
  • Your strength isn’t gone, keep using it – stay active, eat right, and watch your weight! 
  • Your opportunities haven’t vanished, keep pursuing them – perhaps it’s an encouraging word, an affirming note, or a phone call to someone near to you to say, “I love you”!
  • Your God is not dead, keep serving and seeking Him – and continue to enjoy time alone with Him!

Life is short!  You and I might get 90 years on this earth…if we’re lucky.  We all have a choice as to how to best use the number of years we’re given.  How will you choose to walk each day you’re given?  I’ll aspire to choose ‘glass-half-full!’

I always welcome your thoughts…

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Impediments to Healthy Mindsets

Most of you are aware that I’ve recently published a book called:

3 Truths & 7 Mindsets: Changing the way we think to experience Jesus’ promise of abundant joy, peace, and purpose.

Three Truths & Seven Mindsets: Amazon

Here’s the essence of the book’s aim: Each one of us desires to experience a deep, sustained sense of joy, peace, and purpose.  It’s how God designed us.  In reality though, these are elusive to most people, even those who are faith-filled and otherwise successful. 

Why do these attributes escape our grasp?  Is it because life is hard and not particularly fair?  Or because we have unrealistic expectations that often lead to disappointment?  Or regrets about our past and nagging worries about the future?  Or perhaps it’s that we don’t really trust God and His sovereignty? 

This book provides a simple, powerful set of principles to equip you to experience a deep and pervasive sense of joy, peace, and purpose regardless of your circumstances, your talents, your bank account, or even your achievements.  Your ability to experience them is less about what you know and far more about what you believe (our truths) and how you think (our mindsets).   And, your countenance (how others perceive the genuine peace and joy that you exude) is likely the most powerful testimony that Jesus-followers can share each and every day.

Jesus’ invitation/promise is irresistible, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28).  I’d like to invite you on the journey with me…

One of the big ‘aha’s’ in this journey, as I’ve spoken with several groups on this topic, relates to the biggest impediments to each of us embracing healthy mindsets.  Here are the most prominent ones:

  • Our expectations (outcomes I have my heart set on) and a sense of entitlement (“I deserve…”) – and here’s what it sounds like when we have unhealthy expectations and entitlements:
    • “I really need to land this new job!”
    • “I want to retire by the time I’m 62 years-old”
    • “It’s important that my son gets married and that we have grandchildren”
    • Or, on the entitlement side of things: “I deserve…
      • “…To have my children outlive me”
      • “…To be happy”
      •  “…to be treated fairly”
  •  Our selfishness – most conflicts in our lives are rooted in this self-orientation.  In essence, it’s really the “DNA” of our sin and is often our dominant motivation.
  • We don’t really trust God – sure, we say we trust God, but we often struggle to relinquish control of things that we cherish and/or fear.  As author Dallas Willard said famously: “We say we believe, but we don’t act like we believe.”  Sound at all familiar to you?
  • Our misplaced identity – The natural thing for any of us to do when we struggle to trust God is that we feel a tremendous pressure to prove our worth to others…and maybe even to ourselves.  “Do I really measure up?”  “Do others respect me?”  It’s as though we live with a perpetual imposter syndrome.

I don’t have the space in this ‘musing’ to cover the antidotes to these impediments – you may have to spend $1.99 on the book (Kindle version – see the link above).  It’s what this entire book is focused on helping you to overcome!

What about you…do you experience a deep and prevailing sense of joy and peace each day, regardless of your circumstances?  If not, what are the impediments holding you back from experiencing them today?

I always welcome your thoughts!

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Do You Know What You Believe?

This sounds like a ridiculously simple (and therefore senseless) question – until you stop long enough to think about it…

When people ask me about the process of writing a book that they’ve long thought of writing, I usually suggest they defer the decision to write the book itself, at least for a short time.  Instead, I’ll encourage them to just make the decision to draft an outline of the content of the book so that they can be clear on what they know and/or what they believe about the topic.  Until someone takes this step, most will struggle to have enough enthusiasm (or perhaps even conviction) to do it well.

The same strategy applies to parenting…

If your 15-year-old son or daughter came to you and asked you a question that would test your resolve or convictions about any specific topic, could you answer them well?  I don’t mean could you answer the question to your satisfaction – that matters very little.  Could you answer to their satisfaction?

Your first inclination is likely, “yeah, no problem.”  Let’s test your confidence with a few sample questions that are relevant to today’s culture that most of us would pause (or worse, struggle) to answer:

  • How do you know God really exists?
  • Do all religions worship one God?
  • Where do we go after we die…and are you certain?
  • Are people inherently good…or evil?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Are some sins ‘unforgiveable’?
  • Are there more than two genders?

I’m sure you can think of countless others and perhaps even better questions to add to this list.  My point and my suggestion – if you haven’t yet been asked these difficult, existential questions, you will be asked them soon enough.  You will be approached by your child (or in my case, my grandchildren) and you’ll be asked questions that you’ll struggle to answer…if you don’t really know what you believe.

When the next generation is curious about these and related curiosities, we’ll either help them with clarity about our version of what’s true or they’ll walk away bewildered and entirely uncertain about what is actually true. 

I’m not even convinced you have to know the answers with absolute certainty…but it’s important that each of us is prepared to articulate at least what we believe.  Pleading the 5th  won’t benefit anyone.

Like it or not, there is such a thing as truth.  And if we avoid the truth, or plead ignorance, we’ll add to our children’s confusion or, worse yet, lose credibility because of our lack of morale courage.

So, may I challenge you one last time?  Do you know what you believe about topics that really matter to those we love – and even to those we only know casually?  Our ability to add value to their perspective and their version of truth will depend on our ability to provide thoughtful, wisdom-filled perspectives that could shape their view of what’s true…forever.

I always welcome your thoughts…

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Who Will Carry Your Casket?

I recently read a blog post with this title and the question struck me as powerful.  And while I know that this COVID ‘season’ has drastically reduced or deferred the number of traditional funerals, the principle if still powerful and worth pondering.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Morgan Snyder’s post:  Morgan’s full blog post

I’ve been a groomsman in quite a few weddings. And it’s truly an honor. In some ways, it is an outward expression of saying “I will” to walking alongside that man and that marriage into the unknown landscape ahead.

But carrying a casket is different.

Being a groomsman says, “I will.”

Carrying a casket says, “I did.”

You may assume that there are plenty of people you know who would help “carry” you…and I hope you’re right.  But the skeptic in me ponders the reality that we all have friendships/relationships in our lives that are mostly utilitarian – or grounded on what we each get out of the relationship.  Yes, we like each other but we also derive bi-lateral value for each of our own, selfish benefit. 

The people who will carry your casket are people who have been there for you, through thick and thin, even without personal benefit to be gained. 

I suppose what struck me about this notion are the questions it conjures up:

  • Did you walk your life’s journey with a few key people who cared enough about you and your well-being to want to carry your casket?
  • Would they be flattered and delighted to do so or would they be shocked that you asked?
  • At the same time, who would invite you to carry their casket?  And if they did – it is because of your physical strength or because you were that supportive to them while they were alive?

Or, perhaps you’re reading this and not concerned at all because you’re planning to be cremated – and therefore no one has to carry anything but an urn.  If so, you’re likely missing my point in all of this…😊

Who will carry your casket?  If the answer is far from certain or comforting, I’d like to offer a few recommendations:

  • Take a “pall bearers” inventory – who are the select-few friends of yours that would be honored and humbled to carry you in your celebration of life?
  • Invest in a handful of relationships that really matter – with people who know you fully and love you dearly…without contingencies. 
  • And finally, give generously of your time, your talents, and your love to these special people.  BTW, this also requires us to receive generously (as uncomfortable as that is to most of us).  Although the timeless saying is, “it’s better to give than to receive,” I’m convinced it’s often harder to receive than it is to give.  Graciously receiving love from others may do more to strengthen the bond between you and a few special friends better than giving could ever accomplish.

Regardless of your end-of-life strategy, take a few minutes to ponder the question – have you (and I) invested in a handful of relationships in our adult life that makes it crystal clear who is in this category of friends.  And, do we intentionally invest in our relationship with these special people to be confident that when they get the call to carry your casket, they wouldn’t be surprised…they would be honored!

I always welcome your thoughts!

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