The Danger of the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ in Marriage

The more time I spend studying the topic of marriage and walking with men in the workshops I’ve had the privilege of hosting for the past 8 years, the more I’m convinced that there are a common set of attitudes, mindsets and challenges that plague most marriages.  Here are a few examples and then I’ll further explain the last one – which may be among the biggest contributors to marital strife. 

Attitudes that plague marriages:

  • “I deserve to be happy” – this one is mostly motivated by a self-orientation (or selfishness if you want to be more brutally honest) that contends that my self-interest is paramount in life.
  • “If you knew my spouse…you’d understand why we struggle” – which is the common view that my marriage challenges are mostly resulting from the deficiency of the person I’ve married.  Another variation on this theme: “I think I may have married the wrong person.” In reality, I’d argue that we all marry the wrong person – if “wrong” is defined as joining two sin-prone, self-oriented people who are, by definition, going to have tension and conflict in their marriage.
  • “Our marriage at least needs to be ‘fair’!”  This is the one I’ve come to label – ‘The Fairness Doctrine’.  And when both spouses embrace this doctrine, it may be the single, biggest impediment to God’s design for an abundant marriage. 

The Fairness Doctrine explored:

Why is this concept of ‘fairness’ so prevalent?  Because most of us have embraced the notion, since early childhood, that we are entitled to equity and fairness in life.  Maybe we learned it as a toddler; perhaps it became expected in our school years; it may have become ingrained in our psyche when we started working and became convinced that we ‘deserve’ to get equitable raises, promotions, and opportunities in the workplace. 

And yet, in Jesus’ upside-down worldview  – the concept of fairness is entirely rejected.  Consider the parable of the workers in the Vineyard in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus talks about the workers who were hired as laborers who spent vastly different hours in the field and were paid the same amount. 

And another when Jesus told the story of the women bringing her meager gift offering to the altar – particularly when compared to what other, more wealthy people had given.   Here are His words: “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  (Luke 21:3-4)

And perhaps the most indicting example – that totally destroys the entitlement mentality of the Fairness Doctrine – are Jesus’ final words in Matthew 20:16: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Here’s the point and the promise – God designed marriage to be completely counter-intuitive in today’s culture.  In order for a husband and wife to personify the gospel and glorify Him, we’re called to tear up the Fairness Doctrine entirely.  How does that translate to day-to-day behaviors and attitudes?

  • The next time your spouse doesn’t do his/her fair share of chores – it shouldn’t matter to us the way it often does.  Instead, count it as pure joy.
  • When you don’t get to play golf on a sunny, warm Saturday morning after your spouse had an opportunity to play tennis last week – not only is it ok – it’s actually a great blessing for your spouse that can give you great satisfaction.
  • Or, when your spouse never says “I’m sorry” (and you  do), it’s ok.  In fact, it’s better than ok – because you don’t even have an expectation that you’re entitled to an apology.

A major source of marital dissatisfaction actually derives from clinging to the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ because when you expect ‘fair’ (which you can’t objectively judge BTW because we all have a tainted view of what’s ‘fair’ based on our own, personal definition) you are bound to be disappointed because your expectations are unlikely to be met.  Instead, Jesus calls us to die to our self-interest.  The Fairness Doctrine tugs us to expect the opposite – “my interests are at least equal (or greater than) the interest of others.”

Here’s the bottom line – and a game changer in your marriage and in your mindset: tear up, destroy, or burn the fairness doctrine that resides in your mindset.  That mindset is mostly filled with a self-orientation that won’t serve you well and certainly won’t serve your spouse well.  When you get serious about throwing the Fairness Doctrine away, with no contingencies, your spouse will most-often respond in a profound and selfless way!

I always welcome your thoughts and praying for you and your marriage!

P.S. – here’s the website for the marriage workshops for men in case you’re in the north-Atlanta area and have an interest in registering: www.menyourmarriagematters.com

Posted in Faith, Family and marriage, Inspirational | 1 Comment

Your Happiness May Depend on Your Friendships

Have you ever given yourself a “friendship checkup”?  In a recent article in The Atlantic, Arthur Brooks, Harvard Professor and self-professed happiness expert made this suggestion because his contention is that our happiness is directly correlated to our friendships.  I’ve pasted a couple of excerpts below and here’s the link in case you’d prefer to read the entire article How to Make Your Friendships Deeper – The Atlantic

Decades of research have shown that it is almost impossible to be happy without friends. Friendship accounts for almost 60 percent of the difference in happiness between individuals, no matter how introverted or extroverted they are. Many studies have shown that one of the great markers for well-being at midlife and beyond is whether you can rattle off the names of a few close friends. You don’t need to have dozens of friends to be happy, and, in fact, people tend to get more selective about their friends as they age. But the number needs to be more than zero, and more than just your spouse or partner.

Brooks goes on to explain that most of the friends we have are what he calls “deal friends.”  In fact, the average adult has roughly 16 people they would classify as friends, according to one 2019 poll of 2,000 Americans. Of these, about three are “friends for life,” and five are people they really like. The other eight are not people they would hang out with one-on-one.

If this data makes you self-reflective about the friendships in your life – then mission accomplished.  It made me ponder the same and it’s likely healthy that it does so.  In fact, Brooks goes on to makes two key recommendations for all of us related to friends.  See if these align with your perspective:

  1. Give Yourself a Friendship Checkup

Ask yourself how many people know you really well—who would notice when you are slightly off and say, “Are you feeling okay today?” If you answer “no one,” know that you aren’t alone. In 2018, an Ipsos poll conducted for the health provider Cigna found that 54 percent of Americans surveyed said they “always” or “sometimes” felt like no one knew them well.

For another test of real friendships, try listing a few people, not including your spouse, with whom you are comfortable discussing personal details. If you struggle to name even two or three, that’s a dead giveaway. But even if you can, be honest: When was the last time you actually had that kind of conversation? If it has been more than a month, you might be kidding yourself about how close you really are.

2. Go Deep or Go Home

Cultivating real friendships can be tricky for people who haven’t tried for many years—maybe since childhood. Research shows that it is often harder for men than for women. Women generally have larger, denser, and more supportive friend networks than men. Furthermore, women generally base their friendships on social and emotional support, whereas men are more likely to base friendships on shared activities, including work.

In our go-go world, where professional success is valorized above all else and workism has become like a religion to many, it can be easy to surround ourselves with deal friends. In so doing, we can lose sight of the most basic of human needs: to know others deeply and to be deeply known by them. Christians and followers of other faiths place this deep knowing at the heart of their relationship with God, and it is central to achieving change in psychotherapy.

One of the great paradoxes of love is that our most transcendental need is for people who, in a worldly sense, we do not need at all. If you are lucky, and work toward deepening your relationships, you’ll soon find that you have a real friend or two to whom you can pay the highest compliment: “I don’t need you—I simply love you.”

(End Excerpt)

If you’re brave enough – take a personal inventory of your friendships.  Are you over-investing in “deal” friendships and under-invested in the relationships that most matter?  Your happiness may depend on the answer and on your commitment to change the answer!  I always welcome your thoughts and comments…

Posted in Inspirational, Social issues, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can God Be All Powerful…And Good In This Broken World?

There are a bunch of paradoxical questions that most of us struggle with as we attempt to rationalize and reconcile the world we occupy today.  Here are some examples that I sense are common:

  • Why do bad things happen to good people?  (Although you may ask more frequently: “Why do good things happen to bad people?”)
  • If God already knows what’s going to happen in the future, do we really have free will?
  • How can I truly reconcile the goodness of God with all of the evil and turmoil that exists in the world He created? 
  • If God is all powerful and sovereign, how can he allow bad things to happen in our world – like natural disasters, premature death, and even worldwide pandemics?

You’ll likely think of many more questions of your own but I worry that without a healthy, informed perspective on the answers to these questions, our faith in God will be stunted.  Each of us must reconcile our belief about God and His role and involvement in our broken world and it’s the challenging hardships of times like this that force us to struggle with these transcendent questions.    

These are challenging, thought-provoking issues and yet there are few issues and questions that matter more than these to the average human – particularly those who are seeking answers about our faith and the goodness of God. 

For those of you who love the struggle with these issues, I’ve attached a link here:  (Sermon by Tim Mackie (The Bible Project)) from a young Pastor named Tim Mackie.  Mackie is one of the co-founders of The Bible Project that provides short, powerfully-animated videos that help all of us to better understand and explore topics related to the Jesus and the Bible.  These videos are amazing and incredibly useful.

My daughter introduced me to Mackie a few years back when he was pastoring in Portland, Oregon.  In this talk he does a great job of exploring the tension between the sovereignty of God and His goodness.  I’d encourage you to set aside 40 minutes sometime in the next few days to sit quietly and watch him deliver this all-important message that is so relevant anytime, but especially as we leave this recent Easter season.

What about you: what do you believe about God?  Is He all-powerful AND good?  Is He good but not all-powerful?  Is he both and the struggle we’re left with is to reconcile the notion of our personal freedom and free will?  I think Mackie gets the balance right…

If these topics are useful in your own search for truth, take advantage of the resources available to all of us and “google” Tim Mackie sermons – you’ll find countless messages on an endless number of topics.  It doesn’t mean you’ll agree with everything he says (or any pastor for that matter) but it’s precisely this wrestling match with the truth that we’re designed by God to explore.  There is literally nothing more important in life if God is who He says He is. 

I always welcome your thoughts and comments – or better resources for that matter – because I’m on a quest to learn and discover as well!  In the meantime – hoping you’ve had a blessed Easter season!

Posted in Faith, Inspirational, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Family is the Whole Story!

I found this article from the Institute for Family Studies Family is the whole story – article with the headline, “The Family is the Whole Story.” The topic is intriguing since I spend a fair amount of time trying to understand today’s culture and trends related to marriage and families.  

Dr. James Heckman, a University of Chicago economist and oft-cited expert on government-related child care policies, was interviewed by Katharine B. Stevens in a visit that was hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.  The essence of Stevens’ article was that Heckman is less concerned about the need for public programs for under-privileged children and for more concern for the health and stability of the family unit.  Whatever the program or system, he said many times over, “the whole activity has to engage the family.” 

“Nobody wants to talk about the family, and the family’s the whole story,” he told Stevens during the event. “And it’s the whole story about a lot of social and economic issues.”  Here’s a brief excerpt from Stevens’ article:

As someone who has examined early learning and child care policies for over a decade, Dr. Heckman’s remarks come both as shock and encouragement. Heckman is unequivocal about the power of the home and how it is undervalued and under-studied both in research and public policy. He champions the importance of mothers, who he acknowledges are generally still the ones taking primary responsibility for babies and toddlers even in our gender-neutral age. To me, it’s a vindication from one of the most cited men on the planet regarding early learning and child care. 

“We do want to harvest the powerful force of love and attachment to the child. That is such a powerful force,” he said, adding later, “I wish the family would get back into more of the center of our lives.” 

Parents will always matter more than any program or professional in a child’s life. It doesn’t hurt to have an esteemed Nobel prize winner and early child care expert say so. Now, the difficult challenge is for public policy makers on both sides of the ideological aisle to embrace the Heckman vision in its fullness. 

I agree with Dr. Heckman that throwing more and more government money towards programs designed to address poverty, income inequality, and countless other social programs have not been proven to substantially improve these targeted objectives. 

The fundamental “root cause” of these problems and disparities is far-more connected to the demise of marriage and the nuclear family unit.  The lower the percentage of our population that get married and have intact families, the higher the income disparity.  And the degradation of family and marriage has been on a slippery, downward slope for 50 years.  It has been mostly accelerated by the advent of no-fault divorce and government-created welfare programs that provided disincentives to marry (and work for that matter) while paying more to program recipients for having additional children, whether married or not.  If it sounds like a backwards strategy…you’re right.

Researchers that study work and families consistently conclude that the most likely path to thriving, both financially and socially, starts with three steps: get an education, begin your career, and then marry and have children.  These initial steps, not government-funded programs or welfare, appear to give a young adult the best opportunity to get ahead and become self-reliant.    

Our elected officials, at all levels of government, should focus their time, attention, and our tax dollars on encouraging marriage, family formation and stability.  Perhaps these principles could be part of our education curriculum?  Or we could devise marriage and family-friendly tax incentives?  Or, (and this is a long shot!) our social networking, media and entertainment outlets could begin to shine a positive light and image on the benefits of intact marriages and families vs. today’s environment that makes these look like the exception, not the rule in our society?

None of us, individually, is capable of moving the needle much on this notion but collectively, I’m convinced that the majority of the American public is very much in alignment with the importance of marriage and family in a thriving society and culture.  I pray that we can influence our elected officials and the influencers in our media and entertainment worlds to share a more balanced menu of family and marriage portrayal…for the benefit of all!

I always welcome your thoughts and recommendations!

Posted in Family and marriage, Pop culture, Social issues, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

More School Choices are Coming…I Hope!

There are plenty of things that have drastically changed in the last year because of this crazy pandemic.  Some notable examples:  

  • Commuter traffic in Atlanta has been almost non-existent in most parts of Atlanta for 12 months
  • Airline traffic likely won’t return to pre-pandemic levels for a year or two
  • Grub hub and Door dash are so much more mainstream than I ever fathomed
  • Netflix has now taken a far more prominent role in our lives as we’ve all figured out that we can watch the programs we most like whenever we want to consume them – without those annoying 3 to 4 minute commercial breaks!

I’m sure you can think of many other examples but there’s one more trend that I expect to become considerably more obvious in the next few years and it’s about school choice.   I’m not just referring to K-12 schools – I mean educational choice all the way to the university level.  Why is change so needed and so likely?  Let me count the ways! 

Most parents (myself included, BTW) have largely turned a blind eye to deficiencies in the government-run public schools because they seemed “fine” and obviously a lot less expensive than the private school options.  In essence, ‘good enough’ is good enough!  I’m grateful to add that in our part of North Fulton County, GA., the K-12 schools have been exceptional and all three of our daughters were well-educated  and had great experiences at the same time.

But during this national pandemic, several things have become increasingly obvious as more parents were exposed to what is being taught, who is teaching their students, and the sense of urgency (or lack thereof) in getting children back into the ‘real’ classroom:

  • That virtual learning (i.e., Zoom) isn’t “somewhat” less valuable vs. in-classroom instruction – it is lightyears less valuable.
  • In too many cases there’s been a lack of interest on the part of the teacher’s unions, particularly in the larger metro areas, to go back to the classroom.  If you didn’t know better, you might think that the leaders of these unions are not genuinely interested in the welfare of our children and their intellectual and social development.
  • Most recently we’ve become more aware of the content (and even the tone) of some of the instruction that is designed to inculcate children in a way that may not agree with your family’s view of the truth – from critical race theory to the most recent conclusion that those Dr. Suess books we all grew up reading and admiring are actually harmful according to the “experts.”
  • And perhaps most importantly, that children need school – the ‘in-person’ version specifically.  They need it not only for the learning but for their relationships, their emotional health and for the good of their long-term growth and development.  Our children are not well-suited to being home all day and likely even less so are the parents of these children in many cases

The good news?  History has proven that necessity is the mother of invention and innovations.  I’ll predict that these trends and challenges have been duly noted by plenty of enterprising, well-capitalized people who will rapidly invent new, reasonably affordable educational options and models not long after this pandemic subsides.  These could include more hybrid home schooling offerings and/or more charter and specialized schools that are better tailored to the gifts and interests of the student. 

Even college-age students will likely see a combination of options.  More and more corporations are recognizing that they can teach young, capable students what they need to know to thrive and contribute in their environment and they will relax their requirements for a four-year college degree.   Google and Apple are two notable examples currently.  I’ll predict that there will be more investments made to create specialized educational ‘degrees’ that equip 20-year-olds to do web development, accounting, or even construction related trade jobs in the course of 1 or 2 years (instead of 4+ years) and at a fraction of the cost of today’s universities.

The opportunity is tremendous – for entrepreneurs, for parents, and for our children.  But it will require a substantial number of parents to embrace and choose the less convenient (no yellow school bus in the front of your house) and more difficult choices because cultural inertia and everyday distractions have led to the prevalence of the today’s government-run schools.    

This is a great example of how positive change can come from difficult challenges – including a pandemic.  Particularly if (or when) we end up with far better and more affordable educational options in this country for the benefit of our children’s futures. 

I always welcome your ideas and comments!

Posted in Family and marriage, Politics, Pop culture, Social issues, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Smartphones – Our Friend or Foe?

In my last ‘musing’ I made the case for proactively investing in a few key relationships in our lives because we’re better together than any of us are alone.  As I wrestled with that topic the issue of smartphones arose – those wonderful, effective, efficient, expensive and yet, sometimes-awful smartphones nagged me as a topic worth addressing.

There’s no question about their usefulness.  They provide access to useful information – news, articles, podcasts, etc.  They give us the ability to communicate and connect with those we work with and even with those we love the most in life – even face-to-face virtually.  They deliver electronic calendars and built-in task-management functions that keep us organized.  They even give us the mobility to work from just about anywhere in the world with the help of a high-speed Internet connection.  What could possibly be the downside of this great technology?

In truth, these limitless little ‘computers’ are actually contributing significantly to our loneliness factors in a few key ways:

  • Well intentioned or not, social media apps like Facebook, Instagram Twitter and Pinterest have been designed by their founders to be hyper-addictive and they feed our innate tendencies to compare ourselves with other people.  How can this not contribute to today’s growing sense of discontentment and our desire for ‘more’? 
  • The Internet, and the apps and websites we spend most of our time engaging with aren’t vulnerable or transparent in the least.  They’re actually fueled by anonymity because people are able to say whatever they please without repercussions.  It’s just not real life.
  • And, our smartphones are actually impediments to true, face-to-face, interpersonal relationships.  We’re able to ‘act’ like we’re interacting with other humans as we ‘like’ and ‘heart’ and ‘thumbs up’ the countless posts we scroll through.  But our scrolling is compromising the ‘real’ relationships that most matter.  You only have to go to dinner at the average restaurant or sit in an airport terminal and conduct your own informal survey of human behavior to conclude that we’re not talking to each other…because we’re glued to our smartphones!

This issue begs for a call to action and I’ll offer two simple ones:

  1. Boundaries – If you don’t put some boundaries around this ‘enabling’ technology it will strangle you and your relationships.  Maybe it’s “x” hours/day of use?  Or not using it during meals or in the evenings after 7:00 pm?  Whatever your choices, decide what your boundaries will be and commit to honoring them.  Doing so will most honor the people closest and most loved by you.
  2. Decide “What really matters?” – This has become a favorite question of mine because when I struggle between choices, even 2 choices I love – like playing golf and spending an afternoon with Devonie – this question makes it incredibly easy to decide how to spend my precious, finite time.  Try it – the next time you’re tempted to pull out your smart phone at dinner with your family, ask yourself, “What really matters?” in this moment.  If you’re thoughtful, and ‘others-centric’ in your answer to this question, you won’t pull out your smartphone to check it every time it vibrates.  You may even stop it from vibrating when you get new messages!

What about you?  What other boundaries and tips could you share that might benefit the rest of us?  I always welcome your comments!

Posted in Business-related, Family and marriage, Inspirational | 2 Comments

Don’t Fly Solo…You’re Made for Community

Have you pondered the root causes of our current political and social tensions?  People on all sides of today’s spectrum of opinions and people-groups are downright angry at those that don’t agree with their point of view and nobody seems willing, or even interested, in bridging the divide.  Is it caused by extreme politics? Or fueled by social media where everyone is entitled to have an opinion and they’re able to do so anonymously with very-little accountability?

Dr. Brene Brown delivered a talk at The National Cathedral in Washington DC some time ago and she contended that today’s culture is creating a loneliness in most that is deadly – literally!  Here are a few ‘headlines’ from her talk that are relevant this topic:

  • We’ve sorted ourselves into factions…and we have little interest in intermingling with people who don’t think like us
  • There’s a direct correlation between the degree to which we’ve sorted into factions and the levels of reported loneliness…and the faction’s members don’t really love and care about each other – they just like hating those that don’t think like they do
  • This all leads to the highest levels of loneliness this country may have ever experienced – which impacts us physically, emotionally, and perhaps especially, spiritually. 

In Brown’s words, we long to belong, we long to be connected with others and we long to be loved.  But today’s culture is severing our connectedness and we’re designed by God to love and care about each other.  Literally, we’re neurologically wired to love and care about each other!  Brown’s challenge to her audience near the end of her address, “Come together in community with people you know and even with people that you don’t know.  We’re called to find the face of God in every other human we come in contact with.”  Could the start of our transition back to civility start with this simple principle?

A cord of three strands is not easily broken

One of my favorite Bible verses is in Ecclesiastes, Chapter 4 and it contrasts the vulnerability of a cord with only one strand vs. an exponentially stronger “cord of three strands”.  The author creates the metaphor to help us understand how much better off we humans are as we walk through life with the benefit of relationships with other people (even one or two close relationships) and with God (the third cord) of course.  In essence, we’re far better together than any of us could possibly be by ourselves.

God didn’t design us to do life alone.  From the beginning of God’s church in the Book of Acts there were communities of people that did life together – to care about each other, to love each other, and even to support and hold each other accountable when needed. 

The challenge and opportunity embrace this principle is more important today than ever.  To proactively endeavor to find one or better yet, a few, like-minded and faith-filled people with whom we can walk life’s journey together.   A select few people (or even couple for those who are married) with whom you can feel safe and that fosters genuine, vulnerable, fully-known relationships.  Where love and acceptance are unconditional.   And, relationships that allow you to have faith-centered people that can provide both wisdom and accountability as they’re needed.  

I’ll confess that this mindset runs counter to my introverted nature.  While I’ve spent much of my adult life acting like I’m an extrovert, I’d far rather read or write in seclusion than be in a room with dozens of people making small talk.  We have to be determined to choose, at times at least, to be around people so that we can help and care about each other because that’s the way God designed us – both introverts and extroverts!

We’ve applied this simple philosophy to the Christ Centered Career Groups (www.c3g.org ) career networking organization that we initially started in the Atlanta area in 2003.  The premise: we bring together mostly faith-centered job seekers every Monday morning to facilitate job networking.  We’ve averaged nearly 100 attendees each week (and 13,000+ since we started) with the premise that every job seeker will get back to work faster if we band together, on behalf of each other, for the benefit of all and for the glory of God.  It’s inspiring to see God’s masterful design in action!

Numerous studies on longevity and happiness conclude that the primary difference between those who feel a pervasive sense of happiness and those who don’t is most often the nature and the strength of a few, deep relationships – not the fleeting comfort of hundreds of “likes” on our most recent social-media posts.  It doesn’t even have to be many relationships – just a few that allow you (and the others) to feel a genuine sense of being loved without conditions.

Make the choice to invest in a few key relationships with people that you can love well and that will love you well – exactly as you are – flaws and all.

I always welcome your feedback and comments!

Posted in Faith, Inspirational, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Don’t Worry’…Is an Imperative, Not a Suggestion!

I’m in the late stages of editing my new book, 3 Truths and 7 Mindsets – Changing the Way We Think to Experience Jesus’ Promise of ‘Abundant’ LifeThe basic premise is that there are few crucial mindsets that each of us choose.  And the ones you choose will profoundly impact your joy, your peace and your sense of fulfillment.  Here’s an excerpt from the chapter on our preoccupation with worry:

It’s beyond dispute – life tends to consume us with challenges and preoccupations.  And there are plenty of things for us to fret about – including regrets about the past (which we can do nothing to change) and worries about the future (most of which is wasted energy). 

And yet, God is crystal clear in the Bible that worry is not in His design for us:

do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink…  (MT 6:25)

Do not be anxious about anything… (Phil 4:6)

It sounds declarative and definitive…and yet, we’re prone to excessive worry. 

As Arthur Brooks, author and self-professed expert on happiness contends, “If you have no control over an event, no amount of rumination can help you.  It can only lower your happiness further.”

One could argue that a modicum of worry is actually healthy.  I’ve even argued that position, “It’s called planning.”  And while thinking about what’s ahead and planning accordingly is useful; ruminating endlessly about the array of potential bad outcomes in a situation provides almost no value.  And yet, we continue to worry…

We worry about our children – will they learn enough?  Will they have good friends?  Will they get into the college they’ve chosen?  Will they ever get married? 

We worry about our finances – will we have enough?  Will we ever retire?  Will I get a sufficient raise in pay? 

We even worry about what others think of us – will they like me?  Did I say the wrong thing?  Is my credibility shot?  Will I ever see them again…and do I even want to?

Left to our own devices, we have the capacity to worry about virtually everything.  And worry is really the kinder, gentler version of fear.  Fear of what’s ahead; fear of the unknown; or even fear of failure. 

I still remember a former mentor of mine challenging me, in a helpful way, about a career change I was considering many years ago when he sensed that I was fearful about making the change.  Specifically, I was worried that I may not be successful in the new role.  His challenging question to me: “Do you know what your ‘fear’ is Peter?” I had my own guess but I wasn’t courageous enough to offer an answer.  “No, Dan, what is fear?”  His answer was convicting, “Fear is really just a lack of faith.” 

Dan was right – when we obsessively worry, and that worry translates to fear, we’re adopting an unhealthy mindset that God can’t really be trusted with this situation.  And our common response to this lack of faith?  Worry some more.  It’s a vicious cycle.

How do we embrace a new, more helpful mindset that equips us to stop the worry and yet still deal with the speed bumps that are inevitable in life?  And since we know that we’re going to experience challenges and setbacks, how do we best deal with them without being consumed by worry?  Three simple principles may help you embrace mindset #4 and they demonstrate the inter-relationships between all of these mindsets:

  • God doesn’t give us challenges beyond what we can handle (1 Cor 10:13).  I’ve always taken great comfort in the way retired Pastor and Author Tim Keller explains this perspective, “If you knew everything that God knows, you’d give yourself exactly what He’s given you.”
  • When trials do confront us, harken back to Mindset #3 (our journey to Christ-likeness) – these trials will be used by God to help you grow in Christ-likeness.  When you genuinely embrace this paradigm, you’ll no longer look at challenging circumstances with disdain but with confidence that God will use these adverse situations for your good and for your growth.  (Rom 8:28)
  • And, as we outlined in Mindset #1 (God’s in control), when we truly embrace the mindset that we can trust God for the outcomes in our lives – it enables us to consciously stop fretting about what the future may hold and instead, peacefully anticipate what may come.  

It bears repeating – worrying (or not) is a choice we each make, often sub-consciously.  We have to fight our innate and somewhat natural tendency to worry as a default – but it’s our conscious choice to make.

The antidotes to worry

So, if worry is unhelpful, what’s the solution?  If you’re prone to spend too much time and energy thinking (and worrying) about what lies ahead, here are a few suggestions that have proven helpful as I’ve personally waged this anti-worry ‘battle’ – each of which we’ll expand on in more depth:

  • Stay present and in the moment – in our tasks, in our relationships, and even in our rest.  Every mental cycle we spend on the future, or things beyond our control, is a significant moment not enjoying or appreciating what you’re doing right now. 
  • Don’t worry about tomorrow…put it on the calendar – a significant contributor to our worry is related to the way we manage our time and our calendar…and it’s ‘fixable’!
  • Our expectations and contentment – contentment is being satisfied, or even delighted with what we have today, not preoccupied with what we long to have.  And our expectations will profoundly impact our contentment…and our proclivity to worry. 
  • Resist a sense of entitlement – to fight the tendency to believe that life should be ‘fair.’  And when it’s not, we’re prone to disappointment, or even bitterness.  The choice to resist feeling entitled is also ours to make. 
  • Gratefulness – when our focus is on the future, we compromise our ability to be grateful for exactly what we have today – the people we’re surrounded by, the job that we’re fortunate enough to occupy, or even the resources God has provided.
  • And, the power of prayer – Paul implores us to pray “continuously” – which sounds like a LOT!  Prayer is a momentary acknowledgement that God is integral to every aspect of our life.  And it’s these acknowledgments that help loosen worry’s unyielding grip on us. 

(end excerpt)

I go into more detail on each of these antidotes in the remainder of this chapter but wanted to give you a sense of the direction for this book project.  What about you – are you pre-occupied with worry?  Does it get in the way of your joy and peace?  You can literally choose not to worry…

I always welcome your thoughts!

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Is it Too Late for Our Marriage to be Renewed?

I often get the question (or objection) from married men – “Could it be too late for my marriage to get significantly better?”  The premise of the question is that after 15, 25 or even 35+ years of marriage, isn’t it impossible to think that our bad habits, our disconnects, and our overall marriage relationship could change much for the better?    

The short answer from my experience and perspective: it’s never too late for your marriage to be renewed and here’s why:

  • It only takes one spouse to begin the transformation of your marriage.  And numerous studies and authors have documented and posited that when one spouse is committed to selflessly loving their partner without contingencies – the other will respond in the same direction in a relatively short period of time.
  • God has done far bigger miracles in the course of history and time than repair your marriage.  If He can speak our entire existence into being, can’t He be trusted to do miraculous things in your marriage? 
  • If your hesitation is that there’s too much water under the bridge, too much hurt, and too much sin in either or both of your pasts.  In a counter-intuitive way, when a married couple wrestles with these difficult issues and walks through the process of confession and forgiveness – they actually come out of the other end of the process with a better and deeper relationship than they even experienced before the relationship erosion occurred.  And that includes your dating and honeymoon season – because of the richness of being more mature, fully known and re-committed to each other like never before.    

What about you?  What are the steps you and your spouse can take to make this all-important investment in the most important relationship in your life? 

  • Is it a weekend marriage intensive? (there are many effective ministries that offer these – and now most are offered virtually)
  • Reading a good marriage-related book together? (or a few, for that matter)
  • A marriage counselor?
  • Joining a small group of married-couples at your church?
  • Or maybe it’s getting back into the habit of praying together on a regular basis?

The bottom line – it’s never too late to transform your marriage, especially with God at the center of the journey.  If you’re tempted to think, “what good will it do us at this late stage?” – consider your children first and foremost – it’s the very best gift you could give them!

The next “Marriage Matters” workshop for husbands launches Thursday, January 28th for 6 consecutive weekly lunch sessions in the Alpharetta area – and we will be in person and socially distanced!

Here’s the registration link in case you or someone you know could benefit.  www.menyourmarriagematters.com 

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Our Expectations…and Contentment

I’m in the “red zone” of writing a book about healthy mindsets and wanted to share a small excerpt in this ‘musing’.  And since we just passed the Christmas gift-giving/receiving season of the year, it might be perfect timing to make the excerpt about contentment…so here goes:

Much of our worry and mindshare can be focused on our aspirations and desires for the future.  How can that possibly be bad?  Maybe it’s our desire to move to a new, bigger house.  A career change you’ve always wanted to make?  Or a dream vacation that’s been on your bucket list forever?  And countless others that likely come to your mind.  And those desires and aspirations aren’t innately bad…until they morph into your expectations.  And therein lies the challenge – because our expectations often lead to profound disappointments if they aren’t met.

I came across a video recently that featured Gary Smalley, the well-known author of numerous books on marriage and relationships.  He was discussing contentment and he talked about a time a few years previously when he was struggling and dissatisfied with life and he came across a simple equation for happiness.  Happiness, he said, is the gap between our expectations in life and our reality.  When the gap is large in important personal areas of life (our career, our financial status, our family, for examples), we tend to be unhappy. 

Think about this concept – there are only two ways to close the gap: you can substantially improve your current reality (not always easy to do) or you can let go of some expectations.  In Smalley’s case, he became determined to give up his unrealistic expectations to God and it changed his entire outlook. 

Said another way: the less we expect, the happier we’ll be!

You may bristle at the notion of giving up a dream by lowering your expectations.  But you don’t have to give up the dream!  You do, though, have the ability (and the choice) to manage your expectations for your own happiness. 

Such a simple concept can be stunningly powerful.  It makes me recall a short fable that highlights this point.  I’ve tried to find the author but to no avail – see if this strikes you as it did me:

An American businessman struck up a conversation with a fisherman in a small coastal Mexican village. Noticing his fairly small catch, the American asked why he didn’t stay out longer and try for a bigger catch. The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

“What do you do with the rest of your time?” the American asked.

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”

“I am a Harvard MBA and could help you,” said the scoffing American, who proceeded to advise him to buy a bigger boat and eventually a whole fleet, followed by a cannery, and then have enough money to move to a big city to run his expanding business empire.

“What then, señor?”

The American told him he’d be a millionaire.

“Then what, señor?”

“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

The irony: we spend so much time chasing “the dream” only to find, often too late in our lives, that what we really treasure is often what we already have.  That’s what contentment is about in practical terms – loving what you have instead of wanting what you don’t have.

Paul wrote about this principle, …for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:11-13)

What about you?  Do you have a happiness “gap”?  Have you considered letting go of some of your expectations in order to love what you have instead of wanting something more?

I always appreciate your comments and feedback…

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