Five Minute Sherpa

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Two Words That Don’t Belong in Marriage

On average, women speak around 25,000 words per day. Men clock in at around 10,000 words per day on average. This is pretty fascinating in and of itself, and is great knowledge to have as you and yours navigate communication. Regardless if this is true of you and yours or not, of the thousands of words used on a daily basis, there are two that do not belong in marriage: Happy and Divorce.

These two words will erode the faith and trust that you will work so hard to establish in each other. I have worked with couples who use the word divorce like it was a trusted friend. It permeates their conversations and serves as a road block for them to ever get to the core of their marital problems.

The reason, among others, this word does not belong in relationships is that divorce is an act of destruction. There is no way to candy-coat the reality that is presented with a divorce. If you’ve ever built something and then torn it down or apart, you know that it takes a fraction of the time to tear down than it does to build. The same is true of marriage. It takes years and years of effort and energy to build a foundation of trust, love, and service but only a few moments of ill-timed action to destroy that which was built.

Don’t use “divorce.“ Too often I hear the word divorce used to manipulate and coerce. One of the couples I referenced above was so immune to the effects of this word that even the manipulation had worn off. My first advice to them: Eliminate the word divorce from their vocabulary. You cannot build something when the foundation or end result is in question.

Divorce may seem like an impossibility, but one look at the divorce rate will be sobering. As part of your marriage covenant and commitment, commit to never use the word divorce unless you are willing to follow through with what that means. By follow through, I mean to say that if you do use it you will act accordingly, and be accountable to your use. Do not use it as a threat. If you are hurt, lonely, angry, or sad, then speak to these emotions. Don’t hide behind a culturally acceptable way to escape from the pain and difficulty of life.

The other word that doesn’t belong in marriage is happy. Unlike the word divorce, happy is a word to describe a feeling and is usually not destructive in it’s use. The problem with the feeling of happy is that it’s unsustainable. There are moments and seasons of feeling happy, but it is not an attainable state of being. From a Christian standpoint, nowhere in the Bible are followers of God and Christ told that happiness is a result of faith. We are promised persecution, suffering, and sanctification, but not happiness.

Happiness is a symbol of mainstream culture and is often an idol. It’s an impaired state of joy. Happy is like being entertained and comes from consuming someone or something, whereas joy comes from the acceptance of our humanity and limitedness. Marriage is so heavily influenced by our culture that many get married with the belief, sometimes unconscious, that marriage will bring happiness.

“I’m not happy anymore” is the most common phrase I hear when couples separate and split up. It’s an epidemic. When people get married for happiness, they usually end up miserable or divorced. Disappointment on our own terms is much easier to deal with alone than with another person who was supposed to bring happiness.

Like setting a boundary for the word divorce, I encourage the same with the word happy. Instead of happy, use words like content, glad, joy, alive, desire, aroused, and passion. These all describe emotions that reflect a sense of being alive and awake to what’s stirring inside of us. The fulfilled life is not found through or in any man or woman today.

If it’s happiness you seek, do not get married. You will be disappointed. If it’s real joy, redemption, healing, and sanctification you seek, then marriage might be God’s place for you.

(This article was originally published at Start Marriage Right)

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A Year Ago on 5 Minute Sherpa

March, 2012

Seeing the Real You

It’s human nature to care what others think of us, but this nature can get us into trouble. If you care what others think, more than you think you ought to, then it’s a good chance you don’t know you. When we come to know ourselves, we come realize that we have flaws, dings, dents, and a beauty that is only possible because of those human things. Joseph Campbell says that we don’t love others because they are perfect, we love others because they are deeply flawed. Without flaws, there is nothing to love.     Continue Reading….

Run To, Not From

We’d just spent 14 of the past 15 waking hours at the baseball fields. The first two games rained out twice due to heavy storms of lightning and rain the previous evening. Instead of playing games over two days, we had one day to play at least 3 games. A lot to ask for of a group of 9 year olds. Nine and a half hours at the baseball fields on Sunday, and we didn’t sniff victory for one inning. I was deflated. So was my son.     Continue Reading…

March, 2011

The Ways We Love

Love is strong. Love is tender. Love is hard. Love is the nourishment of life. Of all the needs in life, none is more common or more core to us than love. We are all born into this world in dire and desperate need of love. In the early years of life, love was expressed to us through feedings, holding, rocking, and playing. As we grow up, we become more defined in our personalities and in who we are as individuals. And with each step of growth towards being independent, so too our need for the expressions of love we received as kids.     Continue Reading…

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2012 Most Read/Shared Posts

One of my goals for 2012 was to write more. Beyond writing weekly for the online publication Start Marriage Right, I was able to share some thoughts and writings here on my counseling site. Below are the top 5 shared and viewed posts from the past year.

Stop Trying to Be Normal, You’re Not 167

Normal is depressing. Normal is just plain vanilla, no toppings. Normal is the path of no resistance. Not least resistance, no resistance. Normal is normal, and more and more people are looking for the supposed feel-good nature of being normal. Let others define what normal is, then jump on the bandwagon to feel accepted, part of the team. But you’re not accepted or connected. You’re a drone that parrots what you think others want to hear, what you think others value as popular or normal. …Stop Trying to Be Normal, You’re Not

The Sexual Commodity of Beauty 92

There are two issues here. First is the need for women to transcend the message that to be sexy and hot is to be beautiful. To take it one step further, women need to reject the notion that beauty is synonymous with being sexual. Some of the most beautiful people in the world would never be selected to appear on the cover of a vanity magazine. Capturing and extending external beauty is a losing battle. It’s not just the women’s responsibility to reject this, it also requires men to engage beauty and sexuality in a mature and person-centered manner. …The Sexual Commodity of Beauty

Seeing the Real You 77

We care what others think because it’s easy. It’s easy to ask someone else to define you. To judge you. To tell you who or what you are (and in most cases, they will tell you what you are, not who you are). We want easy, because hard is painful. Hard is just that, hard. And not many of us like hard. … Seeing the Real You

Parenting Kids, Not Controlling Them 62

Parenting is the essence of training a child in how to relate to the world around them. There are hundreds of books to help you along this journey, but the most important piece that a book can never teach you is how to engage your child in who they are. When we control our kids, we ask them to be someone that they are not. It’s scarier to be in relationships with others, our kids included, where we are not in control. Control will crush a relationship, and your child’s spirit. You will do more harm than good by ushering them down the path of life that you want for them. … Parenting Kids, Not Controlling Them

Fear of Losing Her 57

I’m afraid I’ll lose him or her can be one of the most powerful motivators in a relationship. There are many stories that shape the foundation of this fear, but regardless of it’s origin, the way you behave out of this fear will either result in bondage or freedom. If we’re honest, we all have fears about doing or not doing something that will bring an end to an important relationship. This fear may not be consciously present for both partners, but it’s in there.

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Beyond the Seen

We’re all trying to make it in a grown up world. We’re all Tom Hanks’ character in the movie “Big.” Nothing more than a boy stuck inside a 30, 40, or 50 year olds body.

It’s time to grow up. It’s time to stop living life as though it’s going to work, to fulfill you, or bring a constant smile. It’s a grown up world, and a lot of us are acting like that three-year-old in the grocery store pitching a fit because we’re not able to get Lucky Charms.

Stop spending more money than you make. Stop being late for lunch with a friend, and stop taking advantage of your spouse because “we both understand how busy we are.” Personal responsibility is lacking, and this just isn’t going to work.

The physical is where we miss each other. We see the body, the facial hair, the curved body, the jewelry, cars, and houses, but fail to recognize that these are statuses kids can attain. Kids get married, have kids, get jobs, and make lots of money. Kids do things that make them appear to be adults, but inside they’re not. Adults don’t stay in abusive relationships. Adults don’t have affairs. Kids are who buy BMW’s because it makes them feel good inside.

Adults know and value time, forgiveness, compassion, and grace. They know these things because they’ve been given these by others. They’ve been given these things by an adult. Not a child. But an adult. Virtues drive adults, not statuses.

Wisdom coaches adults, not knowledge. The turtle is admired, the hare hated. Kids don’t grow up trying to be the slowest, they want to be the fastest. The fastest wins the race, but loses the journey.

Early on, kids learn the pain of telling the truth. Maturity is about being honest, especially when it’s the hardest to do so. Not only about what we stole, or lied about, but what we fear, hope for, and desire.

This American Life recently had a 25 minute story about a politician and his friend who both lost their careers (and one went to prison) because they spent 3-4 years covering up a mistake made over a postcard during a campaign. They cheated, and had they told the truth at the time, it would have been a slap on the wrist. This is the penultimate example of choosing to believe the justification or lies over the truth. I’ve done it, and so have you. “What the heart wants, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” – Thomas Cranmer

What if we stopped giving people so much credit? What if we looked beyond the titles, power suits, big homes, nice cars, fancy vacations, and latest fashion? What would we see?

You’d see someone just like you. Someone who doubts themselves, questions God, fears vulnerability, and knows from experience to trust no one. You’d see the kid inside trying, screaming, clawing, and begging for someone to hold them and tell them it’s ok. You’d see a 40 year old man who still gets afraid of the dark, a 30 year old woman who still worries about being alone, or a 60 year old man wondering why life has been so empty.

We’ve trained ourselves and each other to judge by the seen, not the content. Because covers can be made beautiful, attractive, sexy, and appealing. There’s no such thing as Photoshop for the soul. Often the content doesn’t ever get read because we’re too transfixed by the cover. We want to believe that some have it together, because then there is hope for me. If no one has it together, where do I go? What do I live for?

Ever wondered why social media is so popular, or why there are so many so called “reality” shows on television? It’s because we want someone else’s life. We don’t want our own. You may not admit it, but your life has not been what you wanted it to be. If you don’t learn your own content, what makes you you, then you’ll be looking to live out someone else’s.

Looking beyond the seen is difficult, and takes effort, time, and being intentional. You must first look beyond the seen in your own life. Examine your own reflection, and learn to tell the story of your content, of your life.

 

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First Half Reading

One of my goals this year is to read more books. Of the dozen-plus books I’ve read so far, here are four that I suggest everyone read:

Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction

A dad reflects on his son’s addiction to drugs (meth). As a parent, this is a terrifying read as I consider what is out there for my kids to face. But it’s a good kind of terrifying. It has forced me to face this possibility and begin conversations with my kids about addictions. Conversations won’t keep kids off of drugs, but my hope is that our relationships will give them what they need through the tumultuous years of adolescence and young adulthood.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

I’m sure you’ve heard of this book, or story, and rightfully so. It’s one of the best stories that I’ve ever read. It’s a story of survival, pain, suffering, tragedy, and the will of the human spirit. All stories have loss, and all stories have redemption. The story of Zamperini has loss and redemption over and over again. Read this book and ask yourself: “Where is the parallel in my story?”

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

Written in a conversational format, characters discuss the nature of how war and peace interact, where does peace come from, and how do we engage it with the people around us. It’s got some powerful illustrations that help to bring the read to see that we often focus on what’s wrong with other people, but ignore the majority of what they do right. Furthermore, we often treat others more so as objects than as people and that we expect them to fully trust us even if we don’t fully trust them. This is a great book for anyone who is in any form of leadership (parents, business, marriage, church volunteers, etc — essentially anyone who deals with people in any organized fashion).

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Probably my favorite book so far of 2012. The first half of this book, if you let it, will call you out and challenge every part of your fear. Resistance is the main culprit to our boredom and lack of pursuit to what we want to create in life. It carries a number of little nuggets that can apply to anyone. This is a book that I will read again, and again.

 

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Excuses, The Human Condition, and Truth

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.” ― Flannery O’ Connor 

On my way in to the office this morning, I heard a report from the Sandusky sex-abuse trail that a psychologist has deemed Jerry Sandusky as having a personality disorder. I believe they are referring to the “Histrionic Personality Disorder” which they seemingly suggest is the reason he has such a high need to be appreciated (admired?) which caused his “inappropriate actions.”

Personality disorders are real, there is no disputing that fact. What I find offensive is the notion that having a disorder like this is the real culprit behind these egregious and evil acts of violence towards countless young boys. This excuse is an abusive use of non-scientific theory intended to lessen the consequences of Sandusky’s actions. There is so much grey area in the realm of personality disorders that if the need to be appreciated is the evidence for such a disorder, then every one of us should be sent to a hospital.

I don’t know if he is guilty or not. I don’t know what happened in the showers, in the bedrooms, or in the car with those boys. But I do know that now is not the time for Sandusky to pull out his personality disorder as the “get out of jail free” card it seems to be intended for. Evidently the defense believes if you have a personality disorder, you’re not accountable for abusing young boys. This is offensive to me, and I hope to you.

The human condition is broken. We all do stupid, inappropriate, and sometimes harmful actions towards ourselves and others. Sandusky is no different in his condition. He’s just like you and me. He’s a wounded man who let the pain of his condition and life dictate his actions towards others. However, if we’re willing to put down our swords and stones, we can learn something from him.

If you leave your wounds alone, they will resurface and wound others. Hurt people, hurt people.

It’s our responsibility to consider what stories we have lived and experienced as a way to keep ourselves from reenacting our stories with other people.

If you mess up, own it. Take responsibility for your actions. It’s not “if” you’ll screw up, it’s “when.” There is too much energy spent hiding the truth and skirting responsibility. Truth is a powerful motivator. If we tell the truth, judgement from ourselves and others is not too far away. Relationships might be lost, financial ruin could happen, and reputations might be tarnished. These are the risks of telling the truth.

What’s to be gained? Being known, trust in others, healing of our deep and dark wounds, and forgiveness of ourselves and others. When we hide what we have done and left undone, we prevent others from being able to give grace, mercy, and kindness. Yes, we risk being chastised and hurt, but if that’s the best those around you have to offer, perhaps those relationships aren’t the best.

It’s a simple formula that we will all spend the rest of our lives trying to cheat the system:

Know the truth.

Tell the truth.

Trust in the process.

 

 

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New Writing Venture

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted here, and I wanted to give a link to a new writing venture that I’ve undertaken. I’ll still be posting here, but I will be focusing my writing on relationships at Start Marriage Right. Thanks for stopping by.

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The Sexual Commodity of Beauty

The rise of self-promotion and narcissistic endeavors is ever growing. The public sharing of ones life is the modern day equivalent to having access to 500 million pen pals. We have less and less face-to-face interactions with people due to the popularity of twitter, facebook, and texting. And in this growing stage of self-promotion, patience, beauty, and humility are virtues easily becoming replaced by immediate gratification, sexiness, and a see-me-hear-me-want-me attitude. The substitution of beauty and pretty for sexy and hot is a concerning trend in media today.

A few months ago I read a great article about how to talk to little girls. Instead of focusing on their outward looks, dress, or appearance, the author encourages us to engage little girls in their mind, imagination, and other aspects that are “non-physical” in nature. This article set a good stage for me in shaping how I want to encourage and engage with my daughter about who she is, not what she looks like. This perspective is quite counter-cultural. Most ads in the media are helping to shape the pervasive stereotype that women are only to be concerned with their looks and outward appearance. A few decades ago, the virtue of beauty wasn’t tied to how much cleavage you had, or how young a woman looked. Today, the trend is for women to be concerned with being all-sexual, or “hot” as Pat Archibald suggests in a recent blog post. Before reading his post, I hadn’t considered defining pretty as a virtue, but compared with the cultural push towards hotness it strikes me as a worthwhile conversation. I especially appreciate Pat’s connection with the drive towards hotness as ending with women becoming a commodity instead of a person.

It’s not uncommon for men to tell me that women are difficult to be seen as anything other than a sex object. Conversely woman often explain the tension they feel in the need to be like a sexual goddess (no doubt influenced by the overwhelming use of porn by men and women) for her husband. Both of these relational realities create huge issues of objectification. It’s impossible to have a functioning relationship, intimate or not, when one is viewed as anything other than a person.

There are two issues here. First is the need for women to transcend the message that to be sexy and hot is to be beautiful. To take it one step further, women need to reject the notion that beauty is synonymous with being sexual. Some of the most beautiful people in the world would never be selected to appear on the cover of a vanity magazine. Capturing and extending external beauty is a losing battle. It’s not just the women’s responsibility to reject this, it also requires men to engage beauty and sexuality in a mature and person-centered manner.

Men need to develop sexual integrity. The statistics are numbing as to when boys/men are exposed to sexually explicit material (average age is 11 for exposure to pornography). These statistics show that the ease by which men can move into sexually unhealthy behavior only supports the previously discussed biases that women are only to be viewed as sex objects. The development of sexual integrity will help men to reject the notion that women are sex objects and that they are only motivated in life by sex. Despite popularly held beliefs, men are more than just a sex organ.

With issues as difficult as this, it’s be easy to play the blame game. This often happens where women suggest that men are the problem because of their hyperactive and aggressive sex drive. Conversely men often say women are the problem because they dress in a suggestive and provocative manner that is impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, the reality is that sexual objectification happens to both men and women. Regardless of the cause, this is a problem that faces every relationship, parent, and person. Thankfully the responsibility of this issue falls on both sexes. It will take action, leadership, and wisdom by both sexes to change the course we are currently taking. Waiting for the other to take the first course of action is choosing to remain silent, and silence does not promote truthfulness.

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Life in the Real World

Over the Christmas break I found a new game on my iPhone called tiny tower. The premise is pretty simple: build your own sky scraper, populate it with people and businesses, rinse and repeat. It’s wildly addictive in that you can spend tons of time in the game earning money and building more. It’s amusement at its finest. And thats why I stopped playing.

Amusement is good in small measured doses, not in vast quantities. The carnival or county fair only comes to town once or twice a year. Any more than that and it would lose its novelty and amusement. But I’m afraid that this natural law of diminishing returns isn’t as obvious in the virtual world.

As I played the game and built my tower, I began thinking about this little empire that I was building. It brought momentary pleasure to see my tower grow to 30, 35, and then 40 floors. But as soon as I turned my iPhone off, my building disappeared. It only existed virtually. And I began to wonder why I spent 20-30 minutes a day building something that will never be real. In reality I don’t know that building a real tower would provide much more satisfaction, but at least there would be something real to show for my work.

What I’m realizing about life is that unless we are engaging with real things and people, we will not grow. When we don’t grow, we get anxious and depressed. Life is not designed to be lived in the virtual world, even though the virtual world offers a painless and entertaining life.

Relationships are not amusing. They are challenging, difficult, and rewarding. Virtual rewards are just that, virtual rewards. It takes hard work to live life on the real world, which is why there exists an enormous quantity of escapes to the virtual world. Because these worlds are so accessible, we need to be aware of how much and when we use them.

One of the ways my family is combating this issue is that we do not use devices with screens between dinner and bedtime for the kids. This means no tv, wii, games on the phone/iPad, etc. it’s been harder than I thought to follow through with is. It’s easy to grab your phone and check Facebook, the news, your tiny tower, or any number of apps that are a daily part of life for some.

If amusement is bringing less and less to your life, create something. Build a Lego tower or town, write a shorty story, bake a cake, paint a picture, or start a new relationship with someone. Obviously this is a short list, but the idea is that life will be more fulfilling and enjoyable when you do something in real life, instead of the virtual world.

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Where Do You Go?

Where do you go when life shows it’s jagged edges, and impossible scenarios?  Often times in the face of pain or fear, we look for the easy button.  You know, the button that Staples has made famous.  Just press that button and all the problems of life will fade away.  Perhaps that button for you is alcohol, pornography, an unhealthy relationship, or isolation.

M. Scott Peck, in his best selling book The Road Less Traveled, outlines the core problem that all of humanity faces: “Life is difficult.”  A simple phrase containing three words sums up life pretty well, but wreak havoc on countless people on a daily basis.  While life will always be difficult, it doesn’t have to be unbearable.

We want an escape, a place to go when it seems that all hell is breaking loose in our lives.  We want to go back to where life felt peaceful, serene, and calm.  The problem is that when we escape to find this ‘better place’ we refuse to face the realities of life.  And when we run from our problems, our fears and anxieties grow stronger and stronger which leads to more coping and medicating.  The spiral gets darker and darker, until the bottom falls out.

The most difficult, but most promising, path from the difficulties in life is the path directly into the pain and fear.  Most of the time, this feels counter-intuitive.  We’re afraid of things, people, and situations for a reason, that’s why we run and medicate from them.

Remember Frodo from Lord of the Rings?  No amount of man made strength could destroy the one ring.  There was no place that they could hide the ring.  Frodo and his companions had to take the ring back to where it was birthed … and to get there his journey was perilous.

For you and I, our journey is sometimes perilous.  We have to walk the road back into our story, to relive, re-experience, and reenter some dark places.  The road to freedom is through the valleys, deserts, and the very shadows of death.  Like Frodo, we cannot go at it alone.

First and foremost; Hurt people, hurt people.  You might have to say this aloud a couple of times to get the meaning, but those who are hurting will often hurt others.  You have to deal with your own hurt before you can help others.

Secondly, you cannot change for others.  Often times participants of our groups will only be there because a significant person in their life asked them to attend.  While this is a good first step, inevitably this ends with disappointment because we cannot live others’ lives.  We must value ourselves, our goodness, enough to make the change not only for the benefit of others but for our own benefit.  Sometimes, this can be the hardest to address because most of us do not have a history of being valued and loved.

Thirdly, spend some time reconsidering what the golden rule really means.  Treat others as you would treat yourself is quite possibly the only relational advice that any of us would ever need.  The problem with this advice is that often times if we treated others the way we truly treat ourselves, we’d be without completely alone.  Do you heap an abundance of condoning insults at your friends or family members when they mess up or do something that was ‘stupid’? Likely your answer is no.  But when you mess up, you probably treat yourself in no similar fashion that you do with your friends.

Lastly, do not go about your journey alone.  As the great philosopher Plato once said, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We are all wrestling, fighting, and struggling, and we don’t need to go about it alone.

New beginnings are here today, will you grab hold?