Posted in family, God, Love, Tolerance

Loving Others When Issues Divide Us

A person in my family will not entertain any conversation about Donald Trump and they have made it clear how they despise even the mention of his name. They, “Can’t stand him.”

This person has not observed any good in Trump. They have not conceded that he has done good for America on any level. Their mind is completely closed.

There is no point in talking to someone of this persuasion as they are not open to any possible insights. We continue to love one another, and do not allow this to cause dissension in our family. We simply don’t go there. There are plenty of other things to talk about.

In other words, we show mutual respect for difference of opinion. Although they know others don’t see things their way, they too are tolerant of differences, if not of discussion.

Mask wearing is another area where our family members’ opinions differ. There is a little more tolerance for discussion with these members so we have talked about the subject. But, once again, there is a line we don’t want to cross. We don’t want to allow a difference of viewpoint to destroy our relationship, so we let the subject drop before it does that. We stop trying to persuade.

Trump is not all bad. He has made some positive changes in America. Masks provide some protection, depending on the material and construction. A challenging exercise is trying to hold two opposing views at the same time, balancing them against each other.

Another topic of dissension is religion. Religion is not all bad. Jewish law teaches us not to lie, steal, kill and commit adultery. Christ taught us what is considered as the Golden Rule, to love our neighbours as ourselves. Members of our family are not accepting of the religion of others, but they still continue to love one another.

When we love others we give them a lot of room. We have to allow them to make mistakes, to be wrong. We might try to help them, but even with good intentions, we will not always do the right thing. It takes humility to admit this.

Love genuinely wants the best for the other person. Unfortunately, there are a few among us who care little about others, but even in these cases, we must be careful not to jump to conclusions. I recently came across this, “Do not assume malice when ignorance could explain the situation.”

Some people shut you out when your views differ from theirs. You become the detestable “other.” I favor Christianity because it does not leave room for this attitude. In fact, it teaches people to “love your enemies” and to “pray for those who persecute you.”

I had a vision this week. I saw the love of God encompassing the world. I can’t really explain it. It was like giant arms, like a cloud, or a vapor, encompassing the earth. I was in prayer and I asked God if he wasn’t angry with the world and all the evil in it. In the Bible I read that God is often angry with the wicked, so I wanted to know. The vision zoomed in to those individual, private moments when people are most vulnerable and I was impressed with the thought that this is what God sees. This is what he does not forget, even when evil tries to obscure it. He looks beyond. This is who he loves.

We need to be a little more like God, loving beyond those things that annoy us. Loving beyond our differences.

We can allow evil to tear us apart or we can choose to love.

There are evil forces at work seeking to destroy what is precious and what is truly precious is our relationships. We must watch that our views do not become the most important thing. What matters is the other person, their needs, their dreams and desires. We can love, even with differences. But it may take some help from the example of Christ, who laid down his life, rather than persisting against resistance. At this special Christmas season, let’s remember, “For God so loved the world….”

I think the source of tolerance is the family. It is where we learn to care deeply. It is where we learn to be tolerant of differences. It is where we learn it is safe to make mistakes and where we learn to forgive. It is so important to guard these early relationships that will follow us all of our lives.

Posted in Communication, Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, Home, Love, Marriage & Family

Surviving the Pandemic – 12 Good Things That Have Happened

condo

Good things that have happened because of the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown:

  1. I’ve slowed down to think. I feel like I have more room to think. It’s like the bookends of my life have moved out. They were pressing in on me. I have more space now. I can take my time, and it’s alright. I’ve been forced off the high speed treadmill of my life. I’ve opted out of the rat race–the crazy habit of busy, busy, busy. The “busy” was in my head. My brain has found a lower gear, now, and I like it.  More “frames” have been added to the movie of my life, stretching out the scenes. It’s not flash/flash to the next scene.
  2. I’ve arranged my house the way I like it. Each room and the balcony give me joy.
  3. With my husband being home, he has learned what it is I do as a writer. He has seen my rhythm and grown to appreciate it. It took awhile for me to ignore him and go about my business. But we settled into a groove of sorts.
  4. I’ve reassessed my role with my grandchildren. I’m taking a more long-term approach and planning games and activities that will not only entertain but prepare them for the future once we can be together again. I’m also realizing that there are stories of my past I need to share with them. Most importantly, they will learn by watching how I interact with them and others and how I live my life.
  5. My husband has learned it is possible to “plan” a once a week grocery shopping trip instead of just hopping over to the grocery store when we need something multiple times a week.
  6. I’ve learned to “tame” my compulsion to go out and I now have a greater appreciation for the activities I am able to do outside the home.
  7. We cut out eating cakes and cookies and ice cream, for the most part, and are consuming healthier food on a daily basis.
  8. We prioritize going for daily walks, even if they are short.
  9. I understand my husband better as a result of being together, working on projects and talking. For example, when I was videotaping his children’s music videos I only suggested improvements when it was absolutely necessary. Otherwise I would suppress his artist instinct.
  10. My husband calls his parents more frequently now and they appreciate it. Previously if we called more than once a week they would be surprised and think there was an emergency.
  11. The biggest conflict we’ve had as a couple has been around watching and listening to news and commentary, and talking about reports. My husband has a much lower tolerance level and over the weeks I’ve learned to adjust. Sometimes I watch when he is not around, or even suggest he go for a walk while I watch. I’ve reduced the amount of conversation time around certain subjects. Our children, like me, want to talk, so we’ve had to modify our conversations around their dad.
  12. I’ve consciously tried to add humor to our days and this has made life more fun.
Posted in feminism, Home, Leadership, Love, Marriage & Family, women

What Women Want

Forget what feminists have told you. The male role is to protect and provide.

I have studied the subject of the relationship between men and women for decades. I started out as the independent, self-sufficient feminist. I rebelled against what I saw as a dominant patriarchy.

Over the years, I gradually moved away from my rebellious stance to one of greater understanding. I got married. I became a mother. But I never relinquished my distinctness and my sense of self. I never allowed my “self” to be wrapped up in my husband’s identity. I did not allow him to overshadow my being. I’ve remained my own person because I firmly believe that this is the kind of woman a man will respect and cherish.

In my early twenties I began to see a void in my life. By then I had lived in many places and held many jobs. But I was lonely. I wanted to share my life with someone. Like any woman, I wanted to be loved by a man but I didn’t know if I would ever find “the right person” so I waited. I could have waited forever. A pastor changed my take on finding a marriage partner when he told a group of college-aged adults that in selecting a partner, we would need to look among the people we knew. I determined that I needed to expand my circle. I also looked at all the men I knew and asked myself who would be a most likely candidate for marriage. I realized that my prince would not come riding out to me on a white horse.

A certain man had pursued me for some time, but when I was ready to commit I discovered he had found someone else. That ship had sailed. I saw another possibility, someone I met as I travelled. We had a long distance relationship. For some reason communication ceased. I’ve sometimes wondered if I should have followed up with more intent. But that too ended.

Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice has three different models for marriage. There is the marriage of lust or passion. There is the marriage of convenience. And finally there is the marriage of mutual compatibility and deep love. Of course the latter is what we all want.

As a practical being, I considered the possibility that I might never encounter the deepest kind of love. I would probably need to make some compromises if I wanted to marry. I decided how far I could compromise. This was a big step for me. Looking back, I see that it shifted me out of fantasy and into reality.

From my mother I learned that her life took a similar turn at one point. She experienced deep love in a relationship that ended. She took stock and then looked into her future. She chose a man who she thought would be a kind and reliable person. It sounds a little boring, I know, but given a chance, love does indeed grow, whereas fiery passion wanes. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be sexual attraction but it is not the dominant factor when thinking long term.

I did not marry a man in order to have someone to provide for me. For years I had provided for myself and this was a way of life. When I eventually got married it seemed like an unbelievable luxury to have someone else to help me out financially. I continued to contribute, because I needed to use my strengths. But once children came along, I immediately saw that I would either delegate their care to others or raise them myself. I realized that, more than anything, I wanted to watch our children grow and to be a part of their education. I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to miss this. This decision came with some adjustments, one being that we needed to adapt our lifestyle to having one income and looking at what I was able to bring in as a bonus. 

Suddenly my goals had changed. Along with my decision to devote myself to nurturing our children I accepted the responsibility of taking the primary role in caring for our home. It only made sense since I was spending more time in the home.

The biblical term “help-mate” has been badly maligned and rejected but it is really a very appropriate description of the relationship between two people who are committed to each other for life. We help one another. We work toward a common goal. We try to keep the love flames burning and we mutually seek and long for peace and a sense of security in our home.

Men are admonished in the Bible to provide for their families. It is their assumed role. Historically they were hunters while women remained at camp and cared for children. This was not social conditioning. This was a biological survival tactic.

We all have an obligation to contribute, whether we are male or female. However, we contribute in different ways. Often these are gender specific. The vast gender experiment we have seen in developed countries, in the last century, is not working out and it never will. The reason is that gender roles are hard-wired in the general populace. They are not the result of social conditioning. From early times man has been the bigger, stronger one, the greater risk-taker, the protecter and provider, while the woman has been the one to give birth and nurture children. Either is capable of assuming many of the responsibilities carried out by the other. At the risk of bursting someone’s bubble, I assert that men are actually better at some things than women. However, even if it were possible to equip a man with a womb–perish the thought–that would not change his instinct to protect a woman and to provide for his family. The unique roles of men and women are dictated by our innate survival instinct.

The Bible refers to man as the “head” of the house. I’ve wondered if this was a social construct of that era in time. Perhaps it was. Perhaps someone decided this is how a marriage relationship worked best. I think it is a short-cut. I’ve resisted this teaching, naturally, being an independent-minded woman. I’ve carefully examined various interpretations of scripture by theologians. I simply don’t like the idea of hierarchy and I don’t believe it to be the ultimate sort of relationship between a man and a woman. On top of that, I believe my view is biblically supported. Jesus sometimes elaborated on Old Testament laws and Jewish traditions. On one occasion he said that God did not condone divorce, but it was allowed due to the hardness of people’s hearts. My personal take is that “submission” became a dictate for the same reason. Men and women did not know how to navigate a complex relationship, so the solution was to simplify it. In another passage we read that men and women are to submit to one another, and I believe this is actually the ideal.

I understand the “complimentarian” explanation of this reference and have done considerable research into this view. To me it still smacks of hierarchy and I find myself resisting it. I am not a naturally submissive woman and I believe in the importance of authenticity. I cannot do something on the outside that disagrees with my insides.

I have fought hard for equal rights. One thing I have learned, in the process, is that the evidence is clear–men and women are not equally equipped for every role. We are designed differently and uniquely, which means we work better together if we take this into consideration. Men, for one, are much less intuitive, generally speaking, when it comes to the needs of children and infants. And biologically, men are not designed as well for nurture, since they cannot breast-feed an infant. No amount of outcry from feminists will alter this.

Men are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. A lot of Christian women have given up their “rights” and “submitted” after being convinced that a man has the greater obligation, literally to give up his life for her. I don’t buy this. Even if a man is willing to give up his life for me, in a Christ-like fashion, I still feel like this is a manipulative trade-off. I apologize in advance if down the road I am convinced otherwise, but right now I am not there and part of me doubts that I ever will be. As recently as this past year I heard a very gentle-voiced man explaining the need for women to be submissive in a marriage. I admit I didn’t like it. I didn’t agree or approve. Please don’t manipulate women. We are equal in value to men, and our role is of equal value. We are to lay down our lives, just as well as men, so the application goes both ways.

I have a habit of supplementing my biblical understanding with common sense and biological references. I think this is only reasonable. When we look at nature, for instance, we don’t commonly see a female being submissive to a male, or a male dominating over a female. Humans are much more complex than animals, but this is a starting place to begin to understand our relationship with the opposite sex. Male and female are equally important contributors and we contribute in different ways.

I appreciate that my husband places a very high value on the administrative duties in the home. In fact, early on I decided that we needed some parameters. We were arguing over petty things concerning the home and I decided that he needed to stay out of my domain, mostly, when it came to deciding things about the home. I was better equipped at comprehending what was needed. In this area we did not have equal negotiating power. I had fifty-one percent of the shares. However, when it came to finances, I allowed him to have fifty-one percent. It was not because I was required to do so, but because I saw he was a good financial manager and we needed a way to break a gridlock. Of course I challenged him. This was expected.

We have done a lot of negotiation in our marriage. Sometimes I yield. But I do not submit because I am required to submit, due to some ordinance. I submit because it is important for one of us to submit in order to move forward. And I fully expect him to be able to do the same.

It may seem strange in these times, when we have primarily fallen for feminist dogma, to believe that, generally speaking, the best model for marriage is to consider the man as the one primarily responsible for providing. There are, of course, exceptions. The man can delegate this responsibility to the woman if she is agreeable to this. In some marriages this works out well. What is critical is that each maintains a sense of dignity in their role.

As I said earlier, I am grateful that my husband places a very high value on the care and planning that goes into making a home. So many skills of the home have been farmed out—think of daycares, decorators, cleaners, gardeners, seamstresses, bakers, cooks, cake decorators, teachers, personal assistants, family counselors and caregivers, etc. For one woman to take on all of these roles is phenomenal. If we are blessed with a partner, then we don’t have to do it alone. We can share this responsibility. If we are honest, we need a “helper.” This is why it is so important to learn to negotiate and be agreeable in a committed relationship.

If the man is willing to provide, I find that I am more than willing to oversee the home. When I go out to work I need to delegate the jobs at home to others, whom I in turn pay to do the things I would otherwise do. It is a trade off. Some women would rather do work outside the home and have others care for their families. I get that. Women vary in their level of nurturing skill. But I maintain that there is nothing as rewarding as influencing a person’s life from birth to adulthood.

I highly esteem my husband for carrying out the role of provider but that still does not mean I lower myself and think I have to submit to him. I collaborate with him. Yes, sometimes I yield my body to him, because I want to delight him. I cannot be thinking only about myself in this area or any other area. But I yield only as far as I am comfortable with doing so. I am not property. I am a queen in my home. I rule alongside my king.

There is another illustration in the Bible comparing a marriage to Christ and his church, with the church being the submissive bride. I think we do a disservice to the church and to Christ by taking this view of unquestioning obedience. Christ expects us to wrestle with concepts we don’t understand until we can grasp them and embrace them and make them our own. He doesn’t expect us to sacrifice our God-given intellect. He doesn’t expect us to ignore our hesitation. He expects us to inquire and to wrestle, not with a sense of distrust, but with a sense that he truly wants to reveal his ultimate best to us.

Some can meekly accept and yield, genuinely from the heart. Perhaps they have the insight at the beginning that takes others years to learn. But it’s also OK to take our perceived “truths” and subject them to the refining fire. If they are true and real, they will survive. In fact, they will come out shining and strong.

What women want is to be loved, and that is what men want too. We want to be considered as equals, to be valued and heard. We also want to be good help-mates. We want to work as a team.

Posted in Abuse, addictions, anxiety, domestic violence, Love, Marriage & Family, Self Regulation, women

Reducing the Likeliness of Domestic Violence

horse ridersAs a person with training in counseling, I am writing this for adults in a relationship that tends towards abuse. Tensions rise to a point where there is a real threat of violence.

First I want to explain that violence is not just hitting. It is also shoving and restraining and blocking. Here I will deal with preventing escalation to physical violence. I acknowledge that emotional abuse is occurring in these situations as well. Below are starting points for resolving conflict that escalates. This is by no means a complete anti-dote, but it could provide some help in certain areas.

  1. Triggers. We all have triggers. These are the areas where we are sensitive. We can get angry when someone triggers us. Knowing someone’s triggers can help us to avoid going there. Triggers are areas that need work. However, the work takes a lot of time and effort, usually under the guidance of a counselor. In the short therm, certain confrontations can be avoided if we think ahead about not triggering someone in their sensitive areas.
  2. Bait. If your partner baits you, this is a pathological relationship. This is not normal. This personality actually wants an opportunity to act hostile and feels the need to be abusive. This is a relationship you have to plan to leave. You are dealing with a dangerous person so you will need to plan your exit carefully.
  3. Impatience. A lot of flare-ups can be traced to impatience. Someone reaches the end of their fuse. The answer is to get a longer fuse. The person with the short fuse needs to see this is their problem. Practicing patience can make a big difference. Learn to give the other person more time, more space, more understanding.
  4. Inappropriate Entitlement. We are entitled to respect. But this is not a one-way street. Both are equally entitled. Neither has the right to be demanding.
  5. Competition. A little bit of competition can be healthy. It becomes unhealthy when one person cannot tolerate losing, or being seen as less competent.
  6. Put-downs, insults. Look beneath this kind of behavior. It is a form of non-physical violence that attacks another’s person. Why are you putting the other person down? In some cases this is a bad habit that needs to be broken. It may be how someone was raised, and they don’t know better. They might not even know how their words are effecting the other person. Deflecting by saying you were joking when you hurt someone is a further form of aggression. Ask each other, how much truth is there behind these words? Does the person intend to be cutting? Also examine whether this is in fact a reaction to words or behavior that hurt them earlier? It is not easy to stop any form of aggressive or inappropriate behavior. It requires a person to humbly admit they have a problem and then commit to changing.
  7. Blame. The blame game is never a winning game. Figure out what is the problem, not who is the problem. Focus on solving one problem at a time. Address other issues at a later date.

What are some positive preventative actions to take?

  1. Be kind. Think of considerate things to do for the other person. Do them out of the goodness of your heart, without expecting anything in return.
  2. Give a compliment. People who abuse others tend to have a distorted view of themselves which is often the consequence of how they were treated by others, especially as children. They have developed various forms of coping with feelings of unworthiness. Show you value the person. Compliment good qualities. Start with, I liked how you. I like that you….When you did that it made me happy. People are starved for words of affirmation.
  3. Listen. Listen well. Let the other person finish. Let them express their complete thoughts. Then respond with, Thank you for sharing that. Or, I’m glad you told me how that impacted you.
  4. Empathize. Say things like, That must have been difficult for you to do/witness/go through. Or, I’m sorry that happened to you.

This is only a beginning. Your relationship is at a low point and will take a lot of work to rebuild. It may also be a situation you need to leave, for your own safety.

Understanding how vulnerable your partner may feel, can help you to be supportive. Just because a person is tough on the outside does not mean they feel that way on the inside. If a person is pathological, meaning they do not experience normal feelings of empathy for others and actually gravitate towards violence to get them high then you need to get out of that relationship. However, a lot of progress can be made when two people are willing to work at their relationship by being more open, communicating what you both want in your relationship, and showing you are for the other person.

It must be understood, and expressed to your partner, that violence will not be tolerated. In other words, “I love you and want to be with you, but if you continue to behave in this way, then I will have to leave you.” If you need to say this, then you also mean to follow through.

One last thing, which is by no means the least of problems, is the influence of mind-altering substances like alcohol. Alcohol tends to bring out the worst. If this exacerbates the problem in your relationship you can say, “You lose control of yourself and become a different person when you drink. When you drink to excess, you make me afraid.” In a normal relationship one partner will not want to cause the other person to be afraid and will in fact be willing to take steps to move the relationship in a positive direction.

Harmful behavior must not be allowed to continue. However, moving towards a more consistently loving and caring relationship will require commitment and hard work. It may be well worth it if there is an underlying desire to be together. Your future years together can be better than your past.

Posted in Home, Love, Marriage & Family

What Almost Destroyed My Marriage

valentine-s-day-card-chocolate-horiz

Our marriage was dangling at the edge of a precipice. My husband was oblivious to the danger we were in. I am married to a difficult man who has a lot of very good traits, but also some bad ones. We have struggled more than I think is necessary in a marriage.

After decades together I decided I couldn’t allow him to continue certain ways he has of interacting with me. For many years I thought we just had the normal spats every couple who can’t agree on everything will have from time to time. And for some time I thought I was the primary problem. I wanted too much. I wasn’t content enough. I saw problems when I should be looking at the positive things about our marriage, like my husband was doing.

My husband would say things like, “That’s a stupid idea.” Pretty soon I was hearing in my head that the person that came up with the idea was stupid. He also had a tendency to raise his voice, for emphasis.

I tried to be a more agreeable wife. One day I confronted him and told him I wasn’t stupid. He said he had never said I was stupid. But I didn’t stop there. I went on to give concrete examples of areas of our lives where I had made impressive and intelligent decisions affecting our family. Our relationship began to change a little for the better.

My husband has a quality I call resistance. Very quickly, without thinking, he will say no to an idea I have. Sometimes he can support his decision with a good argument, but sometimes my desire or request is entirely valid. On one occasion I wanted to make a quick trip to Seattle to see our son about a week before his marriage. My husband said, no, in no uncertain terms. I am not in the habit of always obeying his wishes, so I hurried to the car and drove away. He began to fear the worst as he tried to reach me by phone.

That incident helped him to learn to be a little more open to what I want and need, but as time went by it became clear to me that I needed more from him. After some thirty years I needed a greater demonstration of his confidence in me. I had shed my insecurities about my person. I no longer thought I was unreasonable, asking too much. I thought I was very reasonable and I expected him to see this. As I looked over the situation I saw a level of carelessness on his part. He thought he could respond to me with indifference or resistance, at will, with no consideration to how I was being impacted. I saw that his lack of control, his sense of entitlement to say whatever came to his mind first, was a bad habit. And he had no idea how much damage it was doing to our relationship.

I confronted him. I told him how damaging it was when he thought he could do what essentially amounted to bullying. He was bullied a lot as a child and had developed some defense mechanisms. In some ways I represented the enemy to him. I was a threat because I wanted something he couldn’t give me or didn’t think I should have. I was going to upset his neat little world. Most of the time we got along well and had a congenial relationship. But it was those occasional instances that were the weak links that threatened to undo our marriage. I had to make him see this. I wanted to preserve our marriage. In these conversations with him I began by telling him how important it was to me to preserve our marriage. I was the threat that was going to break it apart, in his mind. I think he felt this way from the beginning. Maybe even before we were married. This is a dangerous way to be in a marriage.

When my sister and her husband separated I noticed my husband become more attentive to me and more considerate. He became more open and I began to talk to him about what I believed were changeable traits. It is not fair to ask someone to change what they cannot change. Insensitivity and harshness are things that can and should be unlearned. In other words, we have to leave behind our childish behaviors.

There is a tendency in relationships for one person to flip the fault to the other, or to bring other instances of fault into the conversation. I learned early to lay some ground rules. When one person brought up an issue, it was that person’s view that had to be presented completely. The other had to listen. Nothing could be added until the person felt heard and understood. If this is not done, then there will never be the opportunity to get to the bottom of a single issue. The listener, or the defendant, cannot mount an offense or a defense until all is said. Then it is their turn. But even then, the one who brought up the issue, the complainant, has the floor. This is how we have got to the bottom of difficult issues.

My husband may not agree with my taste, my preferences, or my desires. But if he starts to question my judgment, then we have a problem. It’s not that my judgment will always be perfect. But if he is in the habit of thinking he has to protect me from making mistakes then we have a serious power imbalance in our marriage. Or if he thinks his preferences ought always to be the ones to win out, that is a problem.

We were at a very delicate place. I am a reasonable person and sometimes I am too agreeable. I give in to keep the peace. My husband and I are two very different people, perhaps too different. However, I think we are about the same in intelligence. I’m not sure he has always thought so, but I think he would say so at this point in our marriage and that is why we are still together. He was very impressed when I completed my BA ten years ago, with highest honors. It’s unfortunate that I had to prove myself to him. I wish he would have thought highly of me from the beginning because his doubt of me has worn me down.

I’ve been clear and I believe I have been heard. My husband agrees that the weak links really do matter. We cannot gloss over these. He has made some important changes. I think we are out of danger.

Posted in Children, Disciplining Children, Home, Love, Marriage & Family, parenting

Can “Time-Out” and Other Disciplines Be Bad for Your Child?

baby-boys-childhood-160946

Some time ago I wanted to know what the research said about the effect of spanking on children. Naturally, I did a Google search, and discovered that there were literally dozens of articles that all said the same thing. When we read the same thing over and over, we tend to think it is true. We are inclined to go with the “consensus.”

The wording of the articles I read was so similar, that they aroused my suspicion. It looked to me like all these writers were drawing from the same source. That would be alright, as long as it was the actual research. But what if one writer misinterpreted the research, or conveniently omitted important relevant information, and everybody copied this person as an authority on the subject?

It turned out that was exactly what happened. After a long search I finally tracked down material from the original research and found that it read nothing like the popular articles posted on virtually every parenting site.

There may be a “consensus” or agreement from many sources about some form of parenting, but we need to apply our own understanding and observations and determine if what we read is really helpful.

If you have a parenting style that is working well for you and your child, then read no further. But if you’ve ever wondered about the effectiveness of two popular discipline techniques–“time-out” and withholding privileges–then hear me out.

“Go to your room.” We’ve probably all heard it and maybe we’ve said it. What is the purpose of this order? Think about it. I suggest it is multiple. 1) It indicates to the child that there has been an ‘incident’ or some misbehavior. 2) It separates the child from the setting where the incident occurred, and maybe from others involved. 3) It gives the child a “cooling off” period. 4) It gives the child a quiet space for reflection. 5) It offers a parent the same–time to cool off and time to reflect on what happened and to decide if there will be further consequences.

There is an age where this is appropriate. We wouldn’t tell a toddler to go to their room, for instance. They wouldn’t understand, and the separation anxiety would not be healthy for them.

“Time-out” says to the child, “You are being punished because you did something bad.” You may ask, what is wrong with that?

There is a slight difference between being sentenced to “time-out” and being told to “go to your room.” The difference I observe is that “time-out” can be used as a threat, whereas sending a child to their room is what happens immediately after an incident.

I managed without using “time-out” in my parenting and here is the reason why I resisted it. Ask yourself, what is a child doing when they are in “time-out”? They are thinking. You don’t want them to think too long without your guidance and comfort. I think “time-out” can be helpful if done the right way.

When a child has misbehaved it is particularly important for them to know what their parent is thinking and what the next step will be. This is a need they have, like the need for food.

If you send a child to their room it means something happened. The thing that happened has to be addressed. “You and your brother were fighting. Now I want you to apologize and then (fill in the blank, e.g. read quietly in your room) for the next half hour.”

After an incident there needs to be a brief discussion about the impact of the child’s actions or words, as well as talk about future prevention. This can happen at the beginning or after the cooling down period.

Make these uncomfortable conversations relatively short. I once overheard a father “lecture” his son in public for half an hour. I saw the compliance on the child’s face and felt there was no need for this kind of extreme parental intervention. I admit I became afraid for the father/son relationship. Cover all the necessary ground, but don’t go on and on. Kids get it.

“Time-out” is the removal of a privilege–the privilege of being able to roam freely and interact with others. It is “confinement.” The sooner you can get your child out of confinement, the better. For a young child of four, giving them five or six minutes alone is plenty of time before the parent comes and talks to them and then allows them to go and play. For an older child, half an hour is a reasonable time to be required to stay in their room. After the first few minutes it is good for the parent to return to the room and make contact. You don’t want your child to see this as rejection or alienation. It is simply a time to change course and momentum. You may look into the room and say something like, “You can read in your room for half an hour.”

I don’t think it is a good plan to send a child to their room without any input about how to use their time. Say, “You can play quietly for awhile in your room.” This will connect your child to you, and the child will find comfort in knowing you know what they are doing. To an older child you may say, “I want you to work on your homework for at least an hour.” This has now gone beyond discipline to a productive use of the next hour. If they come out and get a drink of water, that is allowed but they are expected to return to their room for the duration of the time. Don’t shout at them and tell them to go back. Watch them. If they dawdle, then remind them in an even tone by saying, “An hour isn’t up yet.”

Once again, ‘room time’ is to be a quiet, reflective time. I discourage music, movies or video games. The brain is to calm down and have limited stimulation. It needs to “work” in a constructive way by coming up with play, reading, doing homework or some other calming activity. In this way “time-out” can be a positive experience. You want your child to emerge from their room a happier person.

“Time-out” is the removal of a privilege. There are other privileges that parents tend to remove and I want to touch on taking away video games or electronics. Many times I’ve heard parents tell me they have removed a privilege for “two weeks” or longer, even for very young children who don’t have a sense of the length of this time period. When I see this, one question that pops into my mind is, what happens if there is another incident two days into the two weeks?

Not only is there the problem of what to do if another incident occurs, but there is also the problem of the child being left without an activity. If the activity is not a good thing for them, then by all means cut it out, but not as a discipline.

In my opinion, two days/two nights or three days/three nights without electronics is plenty of time as a discipline before the privilege is restored. This is a time span even a younger child can perceive, when you talk in terms of “two sleeps.” It also means there is more frequent optimism about having the privilege restored.

Children start out wanting to believe that their parents are being fair. But if they perceive that a punishment is extreme, they start to lose hope. Sometimes they even become more angry. You don’t want your child to lose hope. They need to see that the punishment is reasonable.

I come from the old school where spanking was also part of discipline. Yes, it was abused by some, but three swats on the bottom–after a clear understanding was reached about the error of a child’s way–was sometimes the best “attitude adjuster.” Spanking should only ever be done for misbehavior and defiance about which a child has been warned, and then, after other methods have proved ineffective. Some children never need this degree of correction. The research shows, however, that corporal punishment when infrequently administered, without excess, is actually beneficial to a child’s development.

Discipline is for the purpose of correction. If the outcome is not positive, the problem is very likely not your child. It could be that correction needs to be applied differently. Correction is meant to have a good outcome for you child. Watch for this with any form of discipline you use.

-Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Posted in Abuse, Church, Communication, faith, LGBT, Love, Marriage & Family

My Thoughts on Letter from Farris to Harris

This letter was published on July 27, 2019, open to the public, on Michael Farris’ Facebook page. See my comments below.

Josh,

My first memory of you was in Olympia, Washington standing in my driveway as a grinning kid when you were about nine years old. I saw you many times as your dad and I spoke at many conferences over the years.

How can I forget that meeting in the lobby of a hotel in Rochester, New York when you told me you had signed a book deal for “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”? I told you it was a bad title and wouldn’t sell. Of course, it outsold everything I have ever written by a wide margin.

The last time I saw you was at your dear mother’s funeral. (I can’t recall if you were at your brothers’ graduation from Patrick Henry College.)

We knew each other very well for many years. And I loved you like a younger brother. And still do.

It is established here that their friendship goes back a long way. It was a caring relationship. The writer is older. This makes what follows altogether more painful.

I don’t think I can reach you in private and what you have said and done is very public, so I am reaching out to you in this way.

First mistake. If you can’t reach someone privately, then don’t do it publicly. You think this is compassion or brotherly love? It is not.

You have walked away from your marriage. That’s not right. You have walked away from your faith in Christ. That’s even worse.

The writer fails to ask the most important question, “What happened?” I’ve made this mistake and I’ve regretted my insensitivity.

This says nothing about Jesus and a great deal about you.

That is a loaded accusation if I ever heard one.

Jesus told us there would be false prophets and teachers among us. Your story doesn’t invalidate Christ’s message because He predicted that people would do exactly what you have done. I just didn’t expect it would ever be you.

Now the writer is calling his friend a false prophet and expressing surprise and shock. Harris has made some adjustments in his thinking and he’s probably not through making adjustments. Yes, there is also pain and disappointment in the statement, “I just didn’t expect it would ever be you.” The writer had high expectations. But maybe this was part of the problem to begin with. Lofty ideals that were a bit unrealistic.

I do commend you for the intellectual integrity for recognizing that your secondary views (embracing the LGBT agenda, etc.) are utterly inconsistent with Christianity—as is your view that it is ok to walk away from your marriage for the reasons you have stated. Both of these proved that you had renounced Christianity before you said so publicly.

A lot of people are really struggling with how to respond to the LGBT lifestyle. We cannot condemn them for not wanting to condemn others or finding the biblical view difficult to embrace. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree on points. I think this writer felt compelled to carry out a mandate of correction.

As to Harris walking away from his marriage. That is one of the most painful and conflicting experiences a person will ever go through. Again, ask the question, “What happened?” This is much more helpful.

My heart aches for you in so many ways. It seems that you thought that Christianity was a series of formulas. Formulas for marriage. Formulas for systematic theology. Fear of choosing the wrong formula. Fear of failing to live up to your formula.

Of course his heart aches. But I think Harris will feel shattered when he reads this because someone he deeply trusted is not willing to sit with him and listen to his thought process and feelings.

So, if Harris really did think Christianity was a system of formulas, (maybe the writer knows something) then it may indeed be a very good thing that he is de-constructing his “formula” and trying to find out what it is he actually believes. People need space and time to do this. We as Christians can offer this to them and say, “Take your time. Seek God. He will show you.”

If his was a fear-based “faith” maybe by making some changes he can go deeper and find the true basis of faith, that goes beyond fear.

Having said that, it is not wrong to fear God, or to fear doing wrong. But there is so much more context we have to include. It sounds to me like the writer may be living according to formulas and fears. The two men did come from similar backgrounds.

You know that I believe in the general approach to courtship that made you famous and pretty rich. You included the story of my oldest daughter and her husband in your second book.

I still believe that purity of mind and body before marriage is the right ideal. But it is not a formula for a happy marriage. It is simply a guiding principle that has to be applied with wisdom, grace, and often forgiveness.

Here is a kernel of truth, but a truth-speaker may not be what Harris is in need of during his time of crisis, and I observe this as a crisis when his former close friend cannot reach him to speak to him in private. I think the writer is genuinely trying to be helpful and as Christians this is where we fail so often, and then we end up being offended, when it was our approach that caused the offense.

I would never reach this conclusion about you on my own but what you have said yourself can be fairly summarized as this: you thought your faith and your marriage were based on formulas. They never went deeper than that.

Jesus says about people like you that in the last judgment, He will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

You know that this means you never actually knew Him.

As immersed as you were in Christian culture and a career as a pastor, you never actually knew Jesus.

It gives me only heart ache to say these things to you. And Jesus will take no pleasure in pronouncing those words in judgment of you or anyone.

Ouch! Even if Harris said that, to repeat it in this way is just not kind. And what follows is not really our place to say. God is the one who judges our hearts. Of course, this is a conclusion I have come to after many years and making many errors. For someone trained in theology, the Calvinist view is that if you are once a Christian you cannot fall away, so the writer explains to himself that Harris “never actually knew Him.” I don’t believe this is true. It is also not consistent with what he wrote earlier. The writer clearly thought Harris was a Christian at one time. Now he calls him a false prophet, but says his message is still valid. Lots of contradictions here.

Quite simply, Harris is re-thinking his faith. He might throw it away. I don’t think he has done that yet. From what I have observed he is seeking for a more comprehensive truth. This is a scary place to be. But he can come forth as gold, after he is tried. This is the hope we need to hold out for someone we love as a “brother.”

You haven’t walked away from a relationship with Jesus. You have walked away from the culture you were raised in.

So, as I said, another contradiction. But this may be the only message the writer actually needed to communicate. Harris has walked away from a culture.

Jesus still loves you at this moment. And so do I and countless others. And I will love you no matter what in the days ahead. But my love is tinged in deep sadness.

Josh, you and your story are not the measure of the validity of Christianity.

Jesus is real. He doesn’t want you to return to your prior formulas. He wants you to come to Him for the first time and learn to love.

I can hear the heartfelt love in this letter, but the sad thing is that it will not be perceived as loving, at least I don’t think so. So I hurt for both parties. And I see that I have done what the writer has done, provided a critique. Finding the balance between correction and simple compassion is tricky. But I think none of the above was news to Harris and most of it didn’t bear repeating and was actually offensive because it showed a lack of understanding and a lack of support. It was motivated by fear, fear of Harris falling away and maybe fear of him taking others with him. Our God is bigger. He can handle the questions and struggles we have. Maybe it will lead to error at times. Maybe it will lead to greater understanding of truth. Let’s look at the whole person, all Harris has strived to do. That person is still there, wanting what is best. I believe this. And I believe God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Let’s come alongside the seekers. It’s not about our disappointment. It’s about offering hope.

I am praying for you, Josh.

With love and sorrow.

Mike Farris

Posted in Love, Marriage & Family

That Loving Feeling – Believe in Your Marriage

joel carter photoThere was a time when you and your partner felt so in love, and thought so highly of each other, that you wanted to commit yourselves to spending the rest of your lives together.

Can you still remember those feelings? What impressed you about your partner? What drew you together? Memories like this can act like glue when you hit rougher seas and most marriages will experience some turbulent times.

What is it that makes some marriages more likely to thrive than others? I think I can safely say that it is an ongoing sense of admiration and wonder. Admiration and wonder over being together.

There’s an old song that goes, “You’ve lost that loving feeling.” The lyrics and the melody are heart wrenching, especially the part that says, “We had a love, a love you don’t find every day.” A beautiful thing is falling apart. It is a song of deep regret and longing.

The echo of love is ringing through the song. The singer doesn’t want to let go. This kind of love should never fail.

We often don’t see what we have until it is lost. I think of all the divorcees who later say, “If only….”

A break in a relationship can always be traced back to an incident, however small. A conflict or a disappointment. You thought your partner would behave one way, and they behaved another.

Something surprising happened. Something unexpected. Something that cast your partner in a new light, a less positive one.

And, as a result there was hurt. Maybe slight hurt. Or maybe a very deep injury. And, if it was not addressed and resolved, the hurt was carried for days, maybe years.

Chances are that the surprise happened again. And again. Along with other disappointing surprises. They accumulated.

Maybe you didn’t handle the dissappointment so well. People who are hurt often don’t. Perhaps the inciting incident resulted in a vicious circle of blame and recrimination. As a result the pain was multiplied exponentially.

Or. you went off alone, without saying anything, to lick your wounds. You withdrew, as a form of protection, and it became a pattern.

Injury in a marriage is very real and very deep. The one you loved and trusted hurt you. The one you thought would have your back, turned on you. The one you entrusted your life to, suddenly seemed uncaring and insensitive. This is extremely difficult to reconcile because the emotions around the incident are so intense, especially when one person decides that the other person was, or is, uncaring.

This kind of experience can plunge a person into a lonely pit of despair. Often couples don’t know how to climb out of this place and, tragically, in time they give up on the relationship.

You want to catch your relationship before it falls to this low point because your marriage is worth saving

I think the biggest cry in a relationship is, “You don’t get it.” In other words, I wasn’t trying to hurt you. You don’t understand what I need from you. You are getting it wrong.

If we go back and very slowly and carefully unravel our early discord, we will probably find, to our surprise, that the intentions of the other person who hurt us were not as mean as we thought. There may have been some carelessness involved, some inattentiveness, some misunderstanding. But, chances are that there was no malicious intent because malice is something that builds over time, after repeated injury.

He did it again. Or she did it again. Repetition reinforces the thought that the other person does not care.

This is where we begin to lose our wonder and admiration.

Old hurts from other relationships might surface and blur the image of the person you once wanted to marry (a bully, for example, or a harsh parent). Or they lose their glow in light of other idealized images (when compared with a past flame or an attentive parent).

We all want to keep “that loving feeling.” Just, how do we do it?

We have to find a way. We have to believe there is a way.

We need to be creative, and go back, again, and again, and work at resolving issues, trying different approaches.

We have to pray, and dialogue (talk about it). Analyze (pull it apart and look at it and figure it out). We have to target issues. We have to assimilate (add new information and fit it all together) and reframe (put the pieces together differently for a new meaning). We have to agonize and pray some more. We have to reiterate (go back and repeat).

We have to fight. Both partners need to engage in the fight for their marriage and believe they can make this work.

We can get back that loving feeling. It is possible. I have seen it done multiple times.

We were brought together for a reason and we were meant to stay together. We have to keep this vision of a long term future together. We will endure and prevail.

Yes, some relationships have to end. But not yours. Not if you are willing to work on it.

Abuse is the only valid reason to leave a relationship. The unrelentingly unwillingness to work on solutions destroys hope and once hope is gone, the unhappy alternative is to live in a loveless relationship or make an exit. This, however, does not need to be your story. There are plenty of redemptive stories of marriages where the loving feeling was recovered.

If your partner is asking for change, take it very seriously. Because this is your chance to do something that could be the salvation of your marriage. If one partner’s request for change goes on and on, for years without acknowledgement, then the fabric of the relationship will gradually deteriorate. And when your eyes are finally opened, it may be a case of there being too little invested too late. So take the request for change seriously.

Marriage requires requires constant adjustment and willingness to change.

Can you change? Do you know in what exact ways you need to change? Can you openly ask, what do you want from me? Because, it is worth doing what you can to get the loving feeling back.

The loving feeling is what both of you want and need. You must pursue it, consciously, or stand the risk of losing it.

 

 

 

Posted in Home, Love, Marriage & Family

Blessed to be Married

Roses from my husband

My husband had roses waiting for me in the car when he picked me up at the airport, after I returned from visiting my family in Manitoba. He said they were for me because he was glad to have me home, because I was special, and because he knew how much I liked them.

I can never get over the beauty of roses. They speak to me with their delicate, layered petals, their sweet fragrance, their cool, smooth softness, their perfection.

October 17, 2012

There were no roses waiting for me when my husband once again picked me up at the airport yesterday. I went to Arizona to spend a few days with my sisters. While I was there I visited a mall where a woman who ran a small kiosk commented that she didn’t need a man in her life. She had tried that. Now she was free to go to bed when she wanted, get up when she wanted, eat when she wanted, etc. Nobody was telling her what to do.

Well, I listened, quietly, and thought to myself, yes, those would be the advantages of being alone. But, I had someone to pick me up at the airport, kiss me, help me with my luggage. I had someone to tell my stories to as we drove home, someone who told me about his week. Later we planned a little get together with our son and his wife for his birthday.

As we cuddled on the couch that evening I was content that I had someone in my life, and I was willing to make a few adjustments.

Yes, I fully agree that marriage requires that we adjust our lives to the preferences and needs of another person. When we sign up for marriage, we had better be willing to do so.

There is this thing called reciprocity in marriage. Another way of saying it is that there is a lot of “give and take.” When one partner thinks they are making an unfair contribution in relation to the other, resentment can set in and this will begin to poison the marriage.

I make certain contributions, and my husband makes certain contributions. Our marriage is very different from the standard with which I grew up. In our home we both cook meals, we both clean and usually we are both contributing to the family income.

In my home, as a child, the woman did the housework and the man brought in the money. When my mother decided to train for a career and go to work outside the home, my dad considered it an insult to his manhood. Instead of appreciating what she was doing, he resented it. That was unfortunate, especially when his health eventually failed and prevented him from continuing to work.

During my time with my sisters we talked about what makes a marriage work and why marriages fail. I know there are many reasons. Relationships are complicated. But I think there are some basic principles that could make virtually every marriage successful. If we love each other, trust one another, are able to communicate and understand each other’s reasoning, are willing to negotiate and give in sometimes, and practice kindness and thoughtfulness in our attitude and actions on a daily basis, I think we have a very high probability of a successful marriage.

A marriage, by my understanding, is a relationship from which we ought to derive some benefit. We cannot be petty, selfish, self-centred, inattentive and oblivious to the other’s needs and desires and then expect to have a good marriage. This is not the right formula for a thriving marriage.

As I said earlier, there ought to be a feeling of balance, that each one is contributing their fair share, though it may be different. When two people have a shared picture of the marriage they want then they will be more inclined to put in the effort needed to reach this goal. A couple ought to talk about the ideals they have for their relationship. Some may be unrealistic. Some may be easily achieved.

The romance will not always be at its peak, but there can still be warmth and affection. This is a reasonable expectation and I can say this with confidence after being blessed with nearly thirty years of marriage.

Posted in Love, Marriage & Family

Why Pornography is Hurting Your Marriage

You might not think it is making any difference in your marriage relationship if you frequently look at that magazine or view a particular site on the internet. Or you may think it doesn’t matter if you click daily on certain images or articles that feature attractive women or men. After all, it’s what everyone does, right? It’s how we’re wired, you could be telling yourself.

I suggest that there are at least four reasons why pornography could be hurting your marriage.

ID-10076673
Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

1. Shame

When I was a teen a girlfriend loaned me a novel that happened to have some rather explicit sexual content. As I was reading it I remember thinking, What if my mom walked in and asked me what I was reading? You know how people flip books upside down when someone approaches them? Instinctively we hide what might cause us to be embarrassed.

A young boy was exposed to pornography by his playmates and when the feelings of guilt and shame became too much he approached his mother in tears and asked her to spank him for the bad thing he had done. In her wisdom she comforted him and told him he didn’t need to be spanked, that being sorry was enough. He so badly wanted to be restored to his former innocence.

A man was engaging in viewing some questionable material, maybe not exactly a porn site, but very suggestive. He seemed to think this was excusable. I asked him if he would be alright with his children looking over his shoulder when he was clicking these articles. He told me that my question was helpful because it gave him a new standard for the future.

Shame is an ugly burden to carry around. It erodes confidence. It makes it difficult to look people in the eye. It causes a person to have to cover up, pretend, and even deceive. This is not a pleasant way to live.

When a person lives with shame it will make them less open, less honest, and ultimately, less desirable.

A spouse can sense when the other is hiding something and most are particularly sensitive to feelings of shame. Intimacy in marriage is based on transparency and honesty. When we have to hide something we are ashamed to have exposed then we become distant.

2. Unfaithfulness

You may not think you have been unfaithful to your spouse because you only looked, you did not act out your fantasies. I actually heard this in a Christian context: It is OK to look as long as you don’t touch. Well, if you read your Bible, you will find that is pretty far from what it teaches. My Bible reads that if your eye causes you to sin, you should pluck it out and cast it away. How can our eyes cause us to sin? By looking at something that is not ours and desiring to have it.

I do not deny or minimize the struggle. I think Jesus recognized the intensity of the temptation too, judging by his extreme remedy. He did not mean for his words to be taken literally, but he was communicating a strong message and that was the absolute necessity of dealing with the problem

Your spouse is the only one who has the privilege and honour of satisfying you sexually.

When another person or image displaces your spouse in your fantasies then you are being unfaithful. Let’s be honest.

3. Lack of Control

Losing control over our body or our thoughts is humiliating. We want to have a sense of personal autonomy, the confidence that we can make choices and commitments and abide by them. If an attractive image can absorb my thoughts, even against my will, then my sense of power over myself is diminished.

This of course can lead to feelings of shame too. It can begin a downward spiral of thinking we are inadequate, unreliable, powerless. It can even turn us against the world, against those “fundamentals” who preach sexual purity, against constricting marriage vows, against women, etc. But the real issue resides within us.

We all admire people who have risen to statures of personal success in business, politics, or society. We believe that they have qualities like intelligence and discipline and emotional IQ that have enabled them to succeed. We all want to be successful. And when we are faced with repeated failure in an area of our lives, it can become very discouraging.

A sense of control over self is confidence building.

Eroded confidence will communicate itself in different ways in marriage. It will often manifest itself in discontent with others, accusations, and defensiveness. If I am bad, then you are bad too. It may sound childish but it happens. Especially in marriage.

4. Desire for Something More

A pornographic habit may not mean that a person wants out of their marriage. It may not even mean that they have found something or someone better. But it does indicate a desire for something more.

We all love the stories where a couple finds profound satisfaction in each other, to the exclusion of all others. This is the image of first love. But it can also be that of enduring love. However, it has to be cultivated. That means that we have to delete from our lives those things that do not contribute to marital happiness and add those things that do.

A pornographic habit absorbs a lot of time and energy and thought that ought to be given to our family. Think of it. You are living in an imaginary world when you could be interacting in the real one.

Your partner deserves to be able to relax and be at ease instead of fighting for your attention.

Each of us want to be the one and only, the most desired person. Marriage gives us this exclusive status. But pornography displaces your spouse. It is gravely affecting your marriage.

So, what is a person to do?

The first step is acknowledgement and if you have read this far then you may already be there.

Secondly, steps of prevention must be taken. Set up a standard, like the man I mentioned earlier. Maybe you will not view anything that you would not look at with your children or your spouse present.

My third suggestion is to revolutionize your view of the opposite gender. Never think of a person simply in terms of their body. Discipline yourself to think of the whole person. Think of their childhood, their dreams, their needs, their role in their family. One pastor suggested praying for them.

If you are buying into pornography, you are buying into the deception that this is what people want.

If a man or woman appears to be enjoy being objectified, I will tell you, from numerous observations, that this is only a very temporary, fleeting state.

Every person wants to be loved, not just for their body, but for their whole person, for who they really are.

Yes, some personality types are very self-absorbed, but underneath is the fear of rejection and the longing to be loved with an unconditional, committed and exclusive kind of love, the kind that a marriage should offer.

So, shake off those things you are ashamed of. Pray for forgiveness and grace. Become the person you want to be. One of the best gifts you can give your partner is to make him or her the object of all your sexual fantasies, exclusively.