Dec 192014

14 Ways the Elf on the Shelf Might Die

I’ve always wondered what the signs of pastoral burnout might be. One pastor tells of his experience of going for a job and finding himself weeping uncontrollably. Another person in the helping profession talks about losing a close relative and never shedding a tear. I’m cognizant of the dangers of burnout in a profession with such an emotional toll.

I recently think I crossed the line when I found myself lying in bed at 2am imagining ways the Elf on the Shelf might die. 

I’m not proud of this confession. Dreaming of the death of a beloved child-figure cannot be a healthy step for a pastor. Yet it was a true occurrence and I don’t think I’m alone in wishing bodily harm to the tiny puppet.

The Elf on the Shelf is meant to be a character of great fun, but in our house it is a tool of parental guilt. A few mornings ago our 6 year-old ran into our bedroom and said, “Mom, you forgot to move the elf again.”

Last night when I realized we had forgotten to move the elf, instead of dreaming up creative ways to entertain our children, I began to brainstorm ways the elf could meet an early demise.

So here are the 14 ways I think the Elf on the Shelf might die:

1. He was the victim of medical mal-practice from Doc McStuffins.

2. He died in a tragic accident jumping off the tree trying to turn off the movie Frozen.

3. He was killed by North Korean officials after making a guest appearance in Sony’s The Interview.

4. He had an unfortunate occurrence with Crocodile Dentist.

5. He mistook a Breaking Bad Action Figure for a Tickle-Me Elmo.

6. He confused the garbage disposal for a hot tub.

7. He was strangled by the Sock Monkey for reasons which are still unknown.

8. Ken caught him in the dream house.

9. His body was found stuffed into an Easy Bake Oven.

11. He told the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to go back to the 80s.

12. We all knew Furby had an angry side.

13. Apparently a G.I. Joe interrogation crossed the line.

14. He asked Barbie her real age.

However it happens, it’s time for the Elf to go. The kids don’t believe and the parents are tired of pretending. I can’t take another year of this.

So what’s number 15? If Elf the Shelf met an early demise, how can you imagine it might happen?

For more Funny Friday, see:

And After the Funeral She Hit Him in the Nuts

Silas on the Sybil War, Col. Sanders, and Peeing Crooked

Ella on Kicking a Teacher, Telling a Knock-Knock Joke, and a Pre-Dinner Prayer

 

Dec 182014

Four Things Never to Say to Someone Grieving

Grief is a universal human experience. No one has lived this life very long without experiencing some level of grief. It’s a predictable experience not only in the fact that we all experience grief, but the basic way we handle grief is the same. Whether it be the predictable sorrow of a child moving off to college or the heart-wrenching experience of sudden death, every grief shares some common elements.

Yet every grief is also unique. (See: An Ever Changing Grief)

This combination of a common experience with unique nuances, makes communicating very difficult when grief is involved. We want to interact with those grieving, but if we are not careful, our words can make their sorrow worse and not better.

Here are four things which you should never to say to someone who is grieving:

1. “I know how you feel…” Maybe you know some of what they feel, but you do not know what they feel because you are not them. No matter how similar two situations might be, they are never the same. My experience with grief helps me to have empathy toward others but it does not give an exact map of their grief. We are different people, with different experiences, and we process things in different ways. I can understand aspects of your grief, but I could never fully understand your grief because it is uniquely yours. (See: You Don’t Know Me)

2. “You are lucky because…” It’s always good to see the bright side in the midst of sorrow, but we have to be very careful when we feel led to point out the bright side to others because they may not be emotionally ready. Whenever we tell someone they are lucky because of some aspect of what they are dealing with, we are often downplaying their sorrow in comparison to someone else’s. We often conclude the “you are lucky” phrase with a description of something we went through where we weren’t as lucky. This statement takes the focus off of the other person and puts it on us. (See: A Map for Navigating Life’s Disappointments)

3. “It could be worse.” It’s a true statement. The situation could be worse. Rarely is there an occasion in which it couldn’t be worse. However, just because something “could be worse” does not mean it is not bad enough. Too often the statement “it could be worse” comes across as “you shouldn’t be so sad because the situation isn’t the worst case scenario.” This statement often reveals an uncomfortableness on our part to sit in the grief of another. People do not need us to downplay their sorrow; they need us to recognize it, name it, and endure it with them.

4. “At least…” This is another version of the previous two. We recognize someone’s experience but then add “at least it wasn’t…” By adding the “at least,” we undo any sense of empathy we have shown. We place ourselves as the ultimate authorities of who has truly suffered and we rule that the person we are talking to has not quite made the list. Our intentions are not evil, but our words are painful anytime we point out that “at least” this occurrence didn’t happen another way. (See: What To Do When Life Falls Apart)

The major issue when dealing with someone in grief is to recognize (and communicate) that you do not fully know what they are going through but it is significant and you want to recognize it. Refuse any temptation to downplay the person’s experience or feelings. Do not feel any pressure to excuse or explain away their pain.

Let them experience their sorrow, but let them know that you are walking beside them as they do.

What would be a fifth statement you would add of what to never say to someone grieving?

For more, see:

7 Recommended Books for When Life Hurts

Walking My Son Through the Death of His Grandfather

Dec 172014

The One Thing Which Determines Marital Success

Whenever I’m doing the wedding ceremony for a couple, there is one major question which I want to know the answer to—can you grow?

If the answer is yes, there are no limitations for the couple. They can endure any hardship. Thrive in any circumstance. Enjoy a lifetime together no matter the ups and downs life throws at them.

If the answer is no, there is little hope for the couple. They will wilt under the common pressures of life. The first hardship will likely end their relationship. Even if they experience wonderful times, they will not be able to handle the success.

Marriage is not a static state. At every moment each individual in the relationship is changing, the circumstances of life are changing, and what is necessary to be happily married is progressing. Unless a couple develops the ability to grow in positive ways, they will not be able to navigate marriage.

Most marriages fail because a couple has not grown. (See: The Number One Cause for Divorce)

Sadly, some individuals will boast about their lack of growth. “She’s changed,” the husband says. “He’s just not the same person,” the wife says. They are often right in their description. The person they married is not the same person from five or ten years ago. But the problem is not that one spouse changed, the problem is that one spouse did not.

Change is a necessary aspect of marriage. Unless you are growing and adapting, your marriage is dying.

Their greatest teacher is often conflict. Any relational rub is an opportunity to learn a new skill, grow in knowledge of one another, reveal your heart, and engineer a new element of the relationship. (See: Don’t Seek Conflict, But Do Embrace It)

Success is often viewed skeptically. While a healthy couple appreciates professional or personal success, they also have a deep awareness of the dangers of success. They work with great intention to find a deeper satisfaction with one another rather than allowing success to fill relationship voids.

Failure is viewed as an opportunity. Healthy couples see failure as a tremendous chance to explore mistakes and make better choices the next time. They do not blame one another, but instead seek a mutual understanding.

This growth mindset does not come naturally. People are not born this way; they make choices to become this way. The first area in which they grow is in the area of weariness. They get tired of being tired, of repeating the same behaviors, of experiencing the same failures.

Having grown weary of being weary, they make different choices, learn new skills, and develop in every aspect of who they are as individuals and a couple.

Several characteristics are required for a couple to grow in marriage.

It requires humility. Pride is what keeps most people from growing. They think they know it all. They assume any problem is because of their spouse. They arrogantly assume they have it all together. (See: The Most Important Marriage Advice I Could Give)

It requires desire. Until you want it, you won’t have it. Many people think they want to change, but they don’t truly desire it. They think it sounds better, but to truly desire change is to hunger for it in a deeply transformational way. A true desire will not be denied.

It requires action. Change only happens when we make different choices than we have been making. For those choices to occur, we have to act in new ways. We have to learn new things and have new experiences. This cannot happen in a static manner. Action is mandatory. Read a book. Get counseling. Take a personality test. Communicate. All of these are necessary actions for growth.

It requires others. You cannot grow on your own. Other people are necessary to assist you on the journey. You need someone who is further down the road than you. You need a mentor to guide you. You need a source for ideas of how to solve problems. Without other people (writers, counselors, friends, mentors, and a community) you will not grow.

Some couples make it and others do not. We like to think the difference is circumstances, but rarely are circumstances the determining factor. Show me a couple who blamed a situation on their divorce and I’ll show you ten couples who had the same experience but their marriage got stronger through the situation.

The determining factor between failure and success in marriage if often one characteristic: if you can grow, you can succeed. If you cannot grow, you will not survive.

For more, see:

5 Books Every Married Couple Should Read

Why Nobel Peace Award Winners Get Divorced

Dec 162014

A True Picture of Justice and Grace

At times the concepts of justice and grace seem juxtaposed. We are supposed to value both but the two seem at odds. Grace is best illustrated in humanity not getting what we deserve. God grants us what we do not deserve and withholds what we do deserve.

Yet justice is also an integral part of God’s character. To love God is to love justice. We are called not just to love justice but to live justly and fight against injustice. It is the way of a Christian. (See: Why We Don’t Like Grace)

While I often struggle to communicate the balance between God’s justice and His grace, there are moments in which the terms are illustrated for me.

This week was one of those times.

Every year our church partners with Prison Fellowship. Our church adopts angels, buys presents, and hosts a dinner where children are given gifts. Each child has one thing in common—they have a parent in prison. The prisoners sign their child up, requesting that we buy a gift on the prisoners’ behalf. The gifts are given to the children not in the name of our church, but in the name of their parent. One of my favorite things to say each year is, “Your dad (or mom) couldn’t be with you this Christmas, but they asked us to give you this.” (See: What Makes a Little Boy Cry)

What struck me this year was seeing some of my friends in the room who work in various aspects of law enforcement. Police officers and prosecutors sat in a room full of kids who had a parent in prison. Some of those parents could have been arrested by one of the officers or prosecuted by one of the attorneys. In the name of justice, those men and women carry out their duties to society and God. Yet, at the same time, they are willing to give gifts to the children of the very people they arrested or prosecuted.

This is a picture of justice and grace.

I see it on occasion as a pastor. Part of my task is to warn people against bad decisions. I point to specific commands which they should not violate. I warn them that disobedience can carry costly consequences.

Some heed the warnings and choose wisely.

Some ignore the warnings and choose poorly. (See: You Better Make Up Your Mind)

Yet when someone chooses poorly, it’s not my job to say, “I told you so.” It’s my job to walk beside them even as they experience the negative consequences of their decision-making. It’s my opportunity to help them make a wise decision even after making a bad one.

Too often we are tempted to make a choice between justice or grace. We have a deeper affection for the prosecution or the defense. We feel drawn toward either what is morally right or what feels most loving. Yet God calls us to both. We are called to do justly and act gracefully.

Few things illustrate this for me more than a police officer or prosecutor living out justice and grace:

Break the law and one will arrest you. (See: Stop Cursing the Truck and Start Helping the Driver)

Get arrested and the other will prosecute you.

But if you go to prison, they both will buy your kids’ gifts at Christmastime and tell your children the gifts are from you.

This is justice and grace. This is a picture of a God who holds us accountable for our sin but then pays the penalty for us. It’s a picture of Jesus.

Dec 152014

What If Your Excuse Is Actually Your Advantage?

Everyone believes there is something holding them back. There is a disadvantage which is keeping them from accomplishing their goals. The prevailing thought is “if only…”

If only I…

  • had more time
  • would’ve started earlier
  • had a supportive spouse
  • didn’t have small kids
  • had a more flexible job
  • could do this full-time
  • had wealthier parents

This list is endless. We all assume our goals would be easier to accomplish if something in our lives were different. While it might be true that in many ways it would be easier to accomplish our dreams, we often miss the opportunity before us.

What if your excuse was actually your advantage? (See: Do the Work)

I often think it would be much easier to write if I didn’t have a day job. Imagine if I could spend all my time writing instead of doing the daily tasks of being a pastor. Phone calls, hospital visits, budgets, staff, and a multitude of other issues seem to take precedence over the next sentence or idea. I think if you removed those obstacles, my production could increase.

Yet notice a key assumption. I assume if I wasn’t having to spend my energy in other areas that I would naturally expend that energy on writing. What I fail recognize are the benefits the other demands create for my writing.

All these other things:

give me material

force discipline

demand choices

clear my mind

and most importantly, get me in the routine of production.

Without other demands and with writing being my only task, forcing myself to write would be far more difficult. It is much easier to write when I only know I have a short window and am on a tight deadline than having the freedom to write whenever I wish. Without fail, I produce more when only given an hour to write on a workday than I do on a cold day off when I have the freedom to write all day long. (See: Working 10 to 12)

What if my common excuse is actually my greatest advantage.

What’s true for me in writing is probably true for you about something.

Parents of children with special needs often see the demands of raising their children as the greatest detriment to their marriage. Yet what if it is their greatest opportunity. Caretaking for their child should force them to communicate, demand that they learn to work together, and create a great appreciation for one another in the shared experience.

It’s easy to think that more resources would make success easier, but often those with more resources do not have the drive or passion necessary to experience success. How many children grow up in affluence only to assume life should be handed to them? Others experience more of a struggle as a child and sometimes learn to work hard in order to achieve their goals.

A small organization can compare itself to a larger organization and see all the advantages which a larger organization has. They can believe if they were bigger they could do more things. What they don’t realize is that being small, they have a unique advantage to quickly adapt to a changing marketplace.

The difference between success and failure is not the ability to ignore challenges, but the willingness to embrace them. When we recognize the opportunities which our circumstances have given us not only can we confront the difficulties, but also we can find unique ways to leverage our situation for success. (See: You Always Have an Excuse)

It all begins when we stop making excuses.

Dec 122014

Five Steps to Starting a Blog

“How do I start a blog?” It’s a recurring question in daily conversations. About six months into starting this website, I began to hear the question. People would take me to lunch, come by my office, or email me asking for advice.

It is striking how much the desire to write (or at least to have written) is buried within many people. On occasion they have the courage to let the desire rise to the surface and explore the possibility. (See: Fear Leads Me Too Often)

Every person who desires to write, should write. And there are few better ways to begin the writing process than through a blog.

In 2006, a friend suggested I should start a blog. I laughed at him thinking, “The last thing people need is to hear more from me.” Since I speak on a weekly basis for at least 35 minutes, I felt as though those who knew me heard enough from me. For six years I ignored his suggestion.

As 2012 came to a conclusion I wanted to find a way to get back into the habit of writing. I reconsidered the idea of a blog (although I hate the word blog. I prefer the idea of a website with articles). I thought I would try to write during the month of January and if at the end of the month I liked the process, I would take the website public and start the process. (To see the first post I wrote, click here.)

So I wrote my first post, published it to my un-publicized website and started watching a New Year’s Day football game. A few minutes later, I received a Facebook notification from someone commenting on my post. Having not posted anything to Facebook I was confused. Then I saw that when setting up my website, I unknowingly linked it to my Facebook page. When I posted to my site, it posted on my Facebook wall.

I’m convinced without that accidental step, I would not be writing today. I would have tried to write for a few days, grown weary, and given up. Instead, I unknowingly told my Facebook friends what I was doing and once I say I’m doing something, I’m doing it. (See: How I Determine Success)

Nearly two years later, I’ve written over 500 posts and on a regular basis people ask how they can do the same.

Here are five suggestions:

1. Watch Michael Hyatt’s 20 minute video on how to set up a blog and do what he says. There is no need trying to figure it all out on your own. Michael Hyatt is a must-follow for anyone wanting to write, be a leader, or host a website. In this brief video, he will show you everything you need to know in order to get your website up and running.

2. Begin to write, but hope no one reads. It’s a strange dynamic. You need just enough people to read your writing in order to keep you motivated, but the last thing you need is a lot of people reading you at the beginning. Writing is a process. If anyone is doing it right, they will be better tomorrow than they are today. If a lot of people read you today, they may not give you a second chance tomorrow. Write in the beginning to learn. As you are learning, hope that your audience begins to grow.

3. Commit to a schedule and stick with it. Most people aren’t willing to put in the work. Writing sounds fun—engaging in conversations which result from an idea you wrote. Yet it isn’t as fun when you’ve committed to writing every day and it’s 10pm and you have no idea what to write about. Without discipline, you will stop writing. Pick and schedule and stick with it no matter what the situation. (See: You Always Have an Excuse)

4. Commit to a time frame and don’t evaluate anything until then. I committed to a month before anyone knew what I was doing. After I was “found out,” I committed to one year. After the first year, I decided to give it another year. As this year winds down, I know I will continue to write. It’s tempting in the early days to compare what you are doing to what others are doing and assume it just isn’t for you. Unless you commit to a longer time frame you will likely quit. If after six months or a year you want to stop writing, then stop. Until then, don’t judge what you are doing because it takes time to see the true impact.

5. Focus on production over perfection. If you are a perfectionist, get over it. Get in your mind that production outweighs perfection. This doesn’t mean we should publish whatever comes to our mind. I’m not promoting laziness or poor quality. Yet it does mean we cannot allow perfectionism to paralyze so that we never hit publish. On occasion I get stinging letters from people who have probably never publicly published anything. They say it’s an embarrassment that I would publish things with mistakes. Of course, I reply and ask them what mistakes and after they tell me I correct the mistakes and no one ever knows they were there. What the critics don’t understand is that I fear a lack of production more than a lack of perfection. (See: What Jerry Seinfeld Knows About Success)

Few processes teach me more than writing. It forces critical thinking, personal reflection, and narrowing down a few ideas into a concrete opinion. I would encourage anyone who desires to write to actually do so. It doesn’t matter if anyone else ever reads what you write, just writing is worth the effort given and lessons learned. When others gain from your writing, it’s an added bonus.

Dec 112014

Proof Faith and Patriotism Are Sometimes At Odds

A friend once told me, “I’ve never felt any conflict between my faith and my patriotism.” In his experience there had never been a time in which what Jesus has commanded and what his country needed were at odds.

My experience is radically different. (See: The Lie of Christmas)

I often feel a tension between my love for country and my love for Jesus. What I think is in the best interest of our nation and what is the call of God upon His children are not always the same.

At no time is that felt more than when the issue of torture is discussed in the context of terrorism.

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report regarding the use of torture techniques on accused terrorists. The report immediately became a political football. Politicians from both sides of the aisle spun the story to fit whatever narrative they desired. While the wisdom of releasing such a report in today’s global climate can be fairly debated, there was nearly complete unanimous opinion by most of my friends—”do to terrorists whatever you wish.”

As an American, I support this sentiment. The evil acts carried out against Americans and people of all nationalities in the name of terrorism has been appalling. It’s impossible to have any sympathetic feelings toward anyone who would support the beheading of Americans, murder of children, and evil carried out among many nations. (See: The Most Powerful Divide In All of Life)

Yet in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

Clearly there is a difference between the responsibilities of a nation and that of an individual. Our government has a duty to protect its citizens and strive toward justice. The words of Jesus do not necessarily prevent war, interrogation techniques, or actions taken by the military to save the lives of others, even if it means taking the lives of some.

However, the words of Jesus do clearly confront my heart. They do apply directly to me without qualification for whom my enemies may be or what they may have done. Either the words of Jesus apply to what I consider to be the worst of humanity or they apply to no one.

It was Jesus who prayed for the very men who executed him.

It was Jesus who died for the very ones who rebelled against him.

It was Jesus who chose to love us even when we hated him.

Conveniently, I want to take the words of Jesus and only apply them to a hypothetical enemy. I try to water down his words to only apply to someone with whom I have a petty dispute or a general dislike for their personality. Yet when Jesus says “enemy” he weds it with the word “persecute.” These enemies are the ones who do evil acts simply in response to the Christian faith. They were the first century terrorists.

Jesus calls me to love the very ones I want to hate. This is a contradiction between my patriotism and my faith. The contradiction is a great reminder that I’m not nearly as much like Jesus as I want to be. What I find impossible, he found natural. (See: The Most Confident Christians)

I’m called to love my enemies. This does not mean turning a blind eye to what they are doing. It does not mean I have to cower in the corner as they terrorize others. As a matter of fact, God’s command to love likely calls us to action. However, even as we attempt to restrain the acts of evil, we are commanded to love the very ones carrying out evil.

It’s a very un-American teaching, but it is the teaching of Jesus.

 

Dec 102014

Every Good Marriage Looks Back

Next year. It’s full of great hope and potential. Soon one year will give way to the next and new opportunities will be given to try again, to live differently, and to do things right.

As we begin to think about who we would like to be next year, we also have the opportunity to consider who we have been this past year. Without proper reflection, we have little hope of identifying where we are. When we don’t know where we are, we are unable to define how to get where we want to be.

One key to a strong marriage is having the courage, wisdom, and insight to review the state of your marriage. By looking back, you can find strengths to build on, weaknesses to improve, and memories to cherish.

Unless you look back, you will not move forward. (See: Three Conversations Every Couple Should Have)

It seems easier to ignore a marriage review. Job reviews sound more appealing to many people than sitting down with your spouse and looking over the past year. Yet unless an intentional conversation is had regarding one’s marriage, improvement will never be made. The easy thing to do and the right thing to do are rarely the same. Smart couples do the right things more than the easy things.

Every good couple takes time to review their marriage. It may not happen on a monthly or quarterly basis, but there are moments in which the couple discusses their successes and failures, hears from one another, and makes a plan to improve. The end of one year and the beginning of another provides the perfect opportunity to do a marriage review. (See: One Thing Great Couples Do Which Others Don’t)

Yearly Review

What was your favorite moment of this past year with your spouse? Without your spouse?

Was this a good year or a bad year for your marriage?

What is one thing about your marriage you would like to improve this coming year?

If you had to do it over again, what is one thing you would have done differently regarding your marriage this past year?

State of Marriage Review

Answer the following true false questions:

  1. I feel fully supported by my spouse in every aspect of my life. (T/F)
  2. I feel deeply respected by my spouse. (T/F)
  3. My spouse listens to me and takes my feelings seriously. (T/F)
  4. Though not perfect, our sexual intimacy is fulfilling and satisfying. (T/F)
  5. I have (and my spouse has) the freedom to say whatever needs to be said in our relationship. (T/F)
  6. We confront issues when they occur and can stick with the real issue when we disagree. (T/F)
  7. My spouse and I are on the same page financially. (T/F)
  8. I feel as though our relationship is moving forward and is better than it once was. (T/F)
  9. My spouse desires what is best for me and is willing to sacrifice on my behalf. (T/F)
  10. If I could do it all over again, I would still choose to marry my spouse. (T/F)

Every “false” is an issue which needs to be discussed. A “false” does not mean a relationship is in trouble, but it does reveal something which needs to change. If multiple false answers are given, a professional might need to be consulted. Most importantly, if your spouse is unwilling to do an exercise like this even though you request it to be done, something is horribly wrong and immediate help is needed.

If you want your marriage to move forward, you must be willing to look back. By reviewing where you have been, you can make a plan for where you want to go. (See: The Easiest Way to Rejuvenate Your Marriage)

Dec 092014

There Is More Going On Than What You See

There is more going on than what you see.

One of the most amazing places to which the pastorate takes me is NICU. It can be the saddest place of my life, but most often it is the most hopeful place in my life. Most of the babies I see in NICU grow up to have wonderful lives. A few do not, but most do.

It always strikes me as I’m standing in NICU that healing is taking place. It doesn’t look like healing. It looks as though nothing is happening, but as the babies bask under the warming lamps, their bodies are at work closing holes in lungs, clearing fluid, maturing under-developed organs, and growing.

Healing is often an unseen process. (See: Why Jesus Never Got Botox)

Over the weekend I visited the NICU to visit twins. As we walked back and forth between the two incubators, the parents recounted the words of the doctor that the twins can sense each other. Even though they are separated by several feet, the doctors assume they know the other is near. It is his desire to get them together as quickly as physically possible.

He told the parents he rarely sends one twin home while the other twin remains in the hospital because he believes it threatens the health of the stronger twin. In empathy for its sibling, the twin sent home is often sent back to the hospital because of declining health.

As I stood and looked at two babies sleeping a few feet apart, it looked to my untrained eye like very little was happening. But reality is that there was far more going on than I could see.

It’s true not just for newborns, it’s true for us all.

There is always more going on than what you see. (See: What Every Husband Needs to Know at least Once a Month)

It’s true on a personal level. We like to believe we have dealt with the issues from our past and that we are independent agents making decisions with complete free will. However, the truth is history, experiences, and influences are always expressing themselves through the decisions we make and how we feel. A bad experience which has never been processed is certainly expressing itself in a negative way—whether it be overeating, anxiety, an unwillingness to build close friendships, or an inability to be still and quiet.

It’s true on a community level. As we interact with others, we make snap judgments based on what we see, but we rarely see the whole story. There is always more going on which causes the employee to be late, the co-worker to be frustrated, the teacher to be disheveled, or the nurse to be hurried. While we see the complexity within our own lives, we often assume simplicity in the lives of others. We judge others as uncaring, inept, or evil, never realizing they are hurting, confused, and just trying to cope with life.

It’s true on a spiritual level. Faith says there is more to life than what meets the eye. What’s interesting is that with every scientific development, research is verifying that we see but a small part of a much larger picture. As one twin can influence his sibling although they are physically separated, so too, what we consider merely physical realities have spiritual connotations and meanings. There is a God which we cannot see. There are eternal ramifications to temporal decisions. This world is all we see, but it is not all there is.

The great danger for humanity is that we will trust our eyes to just an extent that we won’t believe anything we can’t see. We will fail to consider other possibilities and in so doing we will believe in far less than their actually is. (See: What Goes On When Every Head Is Bowed and Every Eye Is Closed)

The choice between faith and a lack of faith is often simply the difference between whether one believes they see everything or only a few things. As a person of faith, I believe I see only a part of the complete complexity of what is.

There is more going on than what you see.

 

Dec 082014

Bad Decisions: Timing vs. Choices

Most bad decisions are a failure in timing and not a failure in choice.

Rarely do we choose things which would always be a bad choice in every time, circumstance, and situation. In nearly every scenario when we make a bad decision, we choose an appropriate choice but at the wrong time.

Consider food. When is the absolute worst time to choose what to eat? The answer is when we are hungry. Dieticians have long noted humanity’s poor track record of making bad food choices when hungry. Who hasn’t experienced going to the grocery store while hungry and coming home with bags full of cookies, chips, and a variety of poor choices. We should only shop when full so we make our decisions based on our intellectual choices rather than what our stomach’s desire at the moment. (See: You Better Make Up Your Mind)

As it is with food so it is in a variety of other areas:

The last moment in which you should decide whether to marry someone is when you are engaged in a sexual relationship with them. The joy of the sex can color one’s eyes from the true issues of the relationship.

Never make a life-altering decision when deep in grief. How many times have you seen the grieving widow or widower waste the life insurance payout in a matter of months because they are making financial decisions in a time of overwhelming sorrow?

Many professionals jump from job to job, not because of career advancement, but because they regularly go through seasons of light depression. Without reflecting on the timing of the decisions, they fail to see the pattern that every few years they get tired, experience some sadness, and use a new job to break them out of the doldrums.

It’s not wrong to get married, spend money, or change jobs. All of us will do those things at some point in our lives. Yet there are times in our lives in which we should not make the decision to do any of these things. Because we are not in the right state of mind to make a rational, good decision, we should abstain from decision-making. (See: Stop Freaking Out–A Lesson in Decision Making)

One of the most important aspects of wise decision-making is being able to identify when one should not make a decision. There are times in which we are too tired, too biased, too involved, or too ______ to make a good choice. In those moments, we must either delay the decision or submit our decision-making process to someone we trust who is in a better spot to make a wise choice.

The difficulty with these moments is two-fold:

1. It takes a tremendous amount of self-awareness to know we are not in a place to make a wise choice. Like someone who is drunk that still believes they can drive, we often live our lives in a constant state of weariness, self-absorption, need, or other conditions which bias us from making good choices. It takes a good dose of humility and experience to reach awareness that we should not be making any decisions.

2. The choices we make are almost always appropriate choices for some people or in the right time. If the decisions were clearly wrong in every situation and circumstance, it might be easier. Yet most bad choices are only bad because the timing is wrong. This deceives us into thinking a bad decision is a good one.

Back to the food example. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a piece of cake. It should be eaten in the midst of moderation and within the context of a good diet, but one piece of cake is not a problem. However, when we are starving and we walk to the break room and see a piece of cake, we are not thinking about moderation and a balanced diet. We are thinking we are hungry and the cake looks good. So in the moment, we can rationalize it’s just one piece of cake and what is the harm? (See: What a Timeshare Presentation Taught Me About Making a Bad Decision)

There isn’t any harm in one piece of cake. But having a piece in the middle of a normal day for no other reason than we didn’t eat a proper breakfast is not a good reason to eat cake. And if we continually make choices like it, we will have consequences for our choices.

Most of the bad decisions we make are about timing more than choices. Nearly every bad decision would have been a good decision in a different time.

Before making an important decision—should I marry this person, what job should I take, should we move, etc—make sure you are in a proper position to make a wise choice. If you are angry over some situation, grieving a great loss, weary from illness or lack of sleep, or too involved to make a wise choice, do not make the decision.

Get to a good place emotionally, spiritually, and physically and then make the choice.

 

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