Oct 012014

One Tip to Improve Sex

Sex is often good, but it can always be better.

There is one step which the average couple can take which will improve sex. The step is to talk about it.

It seems too simple, yet the primary characteristic between a couple with a happy and healthy sex life compared to a couple who experiences great sexual frustration is the ability to openly communicate about sex. (See: What I Tell College Students About Married Sex)

When a couple cannot discuss the topic without feeling shame, guilt, insecurity, attacked, or being unheard, they are unlikely to have their needs met or meet the other person’s needs.

Good sex requires good communication.

Yet communication is rarely easy, especially when it comes to sex. (See: Two Steps to Solving 90% of Relationship Problems)

Couples fail to communicate about sex for one of three misbeliefs:

1. Some believe good sex should happen naturally. They believe there is no need to talk since everyone knows how to have sex. If sex isn’t going well for a couple with this misbelief, they assume the problem is their spouse, not their lack of communication.

2. Some believe good people don’t talk about sex. Believing sex is bad and dirty, they get embarrassed to talk about the act.

3. Some have tried to talk about sex and aren’t willing to risk more rejection. When a discussion about sex doesn’t go well, the temptation is not to broach the topic again. If a conversation goes poorly it can result in a fight or in feelings of deep hurt. (See: The Warning Sign of a Bad Marriage You Might Miss)

The answer to these three misbeliefs is humility, truth, and mercy.

Humility recognizes that we don’t know everything and we all need to learn.

Truth recognizes that sex is a God-ordained and God-designed event when it happens between a husband and wife.

Mercy gives us extreme patience and kindness with ourselves and our spouses when discussing difficult topics.

With humility, truth, and mercy, couples can learn how to talk to one another about sex. This is never one discussion; it should be an ongoing conversation through the life of the marriage.

Discuss:

  • Insecurities
  • Expectations
  • Turn-ons
  • Turn-offs
  • Fears
  • Fantasies

It’s only by discussing these topics that we can learn how to bring pleasure to one another. (See: The Greatest Aspect of Sex)

Yet there is one moment in which couples should not talk about sex. Never talk about sex while in bed. A good conversation about sex should happen over dinner or on a walk or just before sex or well after sex, but it should not happen at the time or place in which you normally have sex.

Many couples make the mistake of trying to talk about sex during sex. While it’s okay to, ahem, give helpful suggestions during sex (“yes,” “no,” “more,” “here,” etc), it is not productive to have an in depth discussion during sex. Conversations about the topic can be difficult. They need to happen in the safety of a loving relationship and outside the atmosphere of expectation.

Consider a pair of ice dancers or a Hall of Fame quarterback and his best wide receiver. Both partners experience success only to the level that they can communicate about a game plan and be open with one another about what is happening. However, they don’t talk during the routine or during the play. They read one another’s body language and might give a brief command, but they don’t talk when they are performing. They talk before and after, but not during. (See: Three Conversations Every Couple Should Have)

As it is with ice dancers and football players so it should be with couples. Talk about sex in practice, but don’t talk about it during the game.

Healthy couples talk about sex. There is nothing off-limits when it comes to conversation.

Unhealthy couples don’t talk about sex. They are overconfident, afraid, or gun shy.

You want to improve your sex life? Stop talking about it with everyone else and start talking about it with your spouse.

When was the last time you had a meaningful discussion with your spouse about sex? How about tonight? Don’t have sex; talk about sex.

 

For more, see:

Top 10 Communication Posts Your Co-workers Should Read

 Top 5 Sex Posts of 2013

Sep 302014

An Equation for Discovering God’s Best

Love + Knowledge = God’s Best

From the moment I saw my first equation in math class, I wondered “What does this have to do with real life?” The teacher reassured us, “You will spend the rest of your life figuring out equations.” And she was right.

On a daily basis, I’m working equations: (See: Three Loves to Change Your Life)

  • Do flowers plus a clean kitchen equal a happy wife?
  • Does a rerun of Full House and a bowl full of gold fish equal quiet children?
  • Does a busy week and completed chores equal the freedom to play golf Saturday morning?

Life is full of equations. From the moment we learn 1+1=2, we spend the rest of our lives trying to solve the difficult equations of life.

What equals a:

When it comes to figuring out the best action we should take, there is a simple equation:

Love + Knowledge = God’s Best

The most common mistake regarding this equation is assuming that either love or knowledge will lead to the best action. People often believe it is one or the other.

Some believe all we need is love. They think if their desire is right, their actions will follow. While love is important, love alone does not lead to God’s best. Love creates action. It motivates us to move. It propels us into motion. Yet it doesn’t tell us what we should do. Love does no necessarily drive us in the right direction. It might create action, but it doesn’t ensure the right action. How many evils have been done in the name of love? How many foolish actions have resulted because of foolish love? How well do we know that it is often better to do nothing than the wrong thing? Love without knowledge does not lead to God’s best. (See: Stop Listening to Your Heart)

Some believe all we need is knowledge. They think if their ideas are right, their actions will follow. While knowledge is important, knowledge alone does not lead to God’s best. Knowledge rarely leads to action. It might show us the way to go, but it rarely causes us to go that way. Knowledge rarely motivates. Does knowing the truth cause us to eat properly? Does awareness of the fact motivate us to exercise? Do the right ideas always lead to the best outcomes? Knowledge without love does not lead to God’s best. (See: Love Doesn’t Always Feel Loving)

We need both—love and knowledge. Without love, knowledge rarely moves. Without knowledge, love rarely moves in the right direction.

Love + Knowledge = God’s Best

Whenever we are considering what action to take, we must check both aspects.

Rarely do we have all the knowledge we need to make a good choice. We need to seek wise advisors, read books, and learn new skills.

Rarely do we have all the love we need to make a good choice. We need to check our hearts, be reminded of the true nature of love, and put the needs of others before ourselves.

If you want to make the best choice possible, realize what stands between you and wisdom. Seek love and knowledge and God’s best will likely follow. (See: Why You Don’t Submit to God)

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent…” Philippians 1.9

Sep 292014

Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook

Why doesn’t the ninth commandment apply to Facebook?

It seems as though Facebook is a morality free zone in which good people feel liberated to post or share any information which they like no matter the level of truthfulness. And even if an idea or story is proven false, there appears to be no sense of regret or shame that one has promoted something untrue. (See: Don’t Be a Social Media Hypocrite)

So what if every day my child recites the Pledge of Allegiance to begin her school day (it’s a law in my home state), let’s post something that laments the fact that schoolchildren are no longer allowed to say the pledge.

Who cares if our political opponent didn’t really say what the edited version of a video makes it sound like he said, let’s post it anyway because he really is evil.

Even though we don’t know what the actual person looks like so we don’t know if this picture of them is real, let’s share the post because it will prove our point.

Every day, good people are sharing bad things on Facebook without any sense of hesitation.

Of course we all get things wrong. As much as I try to fact check my writing, on occasion people send me a correction showing how I got something wrong. Mistakes happen. (See: Five Types of Social Media Jerks)

However, there is a difference between making an honest mistake, admitting it, and correcting it, compared to lazily reposting and sharing information of which we have no proof of its accuracy. And if it isn’t accurate, we take no responsibility for our involvement in promoting a falsehood.

The ninth commandment says, “And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (See: Why We Don’t Need the Ten Commandments On The Wall)

Notice the Biblical text doesn’t say, “You shall not lie.” Nearly every translation says, “You shall not bear false witness.” The image is that of a courtroom. A person is on the stand, under oath, giving testimony. To lie is to say something false with the intent to deceive. But to bear false witness is to say anything that is not true.

Many people feel justified in the midst of their bearing false witness, because they believe they are not lying. They are not willfully and knowingly telling a falsehood with the intent to deceive. However, they are bearing false witness. They are proclaiming ideas as truth when they do not fully know them to be truthful. Not only is it possible that their words are false, it is probable that they are false.

This is wrong for everyone, but is egregious for a Christian.

Christians are supposed to promote truth. It’s tied to the commands from God to love others. Truth is meant to flourish in the climate of love.

We are to:

  • rejoice in truth
  • worship in truth
  • love the truth
  • obey the truth
  • speak the truth
  • be freed by the truth

At the centerpiece of the Christian gospel is the concept of truth.

We cannot treat it lightly.

It is an affront to God and an assault on humanity for us to willfully misrepresent the truth.

One of the byproducts of someone who has received God’s grace is a desire to live in the truth. We want to speak it, believe it, trust it, and promote it. (See: The Anatomy of a Rumor–Living Truthfully in a Facebook World)

However, far too often we play loose with the truth—especially on social media. This must stop.

Ironically, the most dangerous piece of information is any story or idea which confirms what we believe.

We must verify, especially when something proves what we think is right. The reason for this is that we are more likely to be deceived when something confirms our beliefs. Our desire to say, “See, I told you so” is so great that without wisdom we will quickly attach our names to things which our false. We must slow down and seek the truth.

Here are four steps to obeying the ninth commandment on Facebook:

1. Research before you share. Many Facebook hoaxes are easily exposed with a simple Google search. Several websites exist for the sole purpose of listing hoaxes and reporting what part of a story is actually true. Before sharing something on Facebook or with a friend, simply research the topic.

2. Focus more on being truthful than proving your point. Opinions come and go, but character is not easily regained. While we all make mistakes, reposting falsehood shows people you do not respect the truth. It is not long before people stop believing your posts and stop believing you. (See: Learn to Communicate Like Facebook)

3. Whenever you make a mistake (and you will), admit it and apologize for it. We all make mistakes. We might believe something to be true or might fail to do the proper background work and we can quickly attach our name to something not true. Whenever this happens, admit it. People love honesty. They understand mistakes. By admitting it and apologizing for it, you show others that you care about the truth. (See: Remember This When You Make a Mistake)

4. Freely share disagreements about ideas but never attack a person’s heart. We can disagree with others without hating them. Most of the people who hold different opinions than we do are not evil. We make a grave mistake whenever we allow a differing opinion to color how we look at a specific person. Whenever we attack a person’s heart, we are defining the whole person by one idea. This is rarely an accurate description of the person. This is bearing false witness about them.

The truth matters. Social media is not a neutral ground upon which we can loosely say whatever we want without care or concern for others or the truth. We must honor the truth through the words we type or stories we share with the same intensity that we would guard our reputations.

 

Sep 262014

A Knowledgable Doctor, Lost Underwear, and I’m Not as Famous as I Thought

It’s been a few months since I have written a Funny Friday, so here you go. This post will in no way benefit your physical, emotional, or spiritual lives apart from possibly causing you to laugh.

A Knowledgeable Doctor

Silas got chiggers. If you have any question to how out-doorsy I am (other than the fact I use the phrase out-doorsy), I never considered after an afternoon of running through the woods that he might get chiggers. All I knew was that he has an extreme amount of swelling and itching in a place that you generally don’t want swelling and itching.

Since I couldn’t figure out the swelling or itching, I told Silas I would text a friend of mine who is a doctor. Silas objected, “It’s too embarrassing, Dad.” I reassured him that Dr. Mike had three boys of his own so he was very knowledgeable about issues like this.

“Oh,” Silas said, “He probably knows a lot about penis problems.” (See: The Only Time I Was Ever Stoned)

“You’re right Silas,” I said, “Dr. Mike knows a lot about penis problems.”

The Best of Twitter, Facebook, or Other Social Media

Here are my favorite quotes or stories of the last few months which I haven’t put on the website, but have posted on other Social Media:

I don’t know who taught Ella to walk up to people, flick them on the arm, and say, “Hello you little flicker,” but that person needs to either: 1) teach her to stop or 2) teach her to properly pronounce the word ‘flicker. (See: Ella on Kicking a Teacher)

A nighttime reflection from Silas, “Other than losing my underwear it was a great day.”

Yes, I did just tell the groom, “You may now stop kissing your bride.”

Google Facts reports that 1 out of 3 women believe their pet is a better listener than their husband. It’s possible that 2 out of 3 husbands would rather their wife talk to their pets. (See: Silas on the Sybil War, Col. Sanders, and Peeing Crooked)

As I was putting Silas to bed he said, “Dad, I love you, but your breath smells like a weird combination of sweat and peanut M&Ms.” It’s possible I had just returned from a long walk and as I came up the stairs I inhaled a handful of M&Ms.

A Poor Sermon Application

One Sunday afternoon I was laying on the couch watching golf when I heard Silas and Ella recounting the morning Sunday School lesson. They had been taught the importance of putting others first. As Silas rehearsed the lesson, he reminded his sister that Jesus always comes first, then others, and then yourself. Ella agreed.

Silas then concluded, “And since you should put others first, Ella, you should let me have this last ice cream sandwich.”

It’s not the proper sermon application, but it’s a great way to get an ice cream sandwich. (See: Bad Sax and Things Never to Tell Your Son)

I’m Not As Famous As I Thought (part 1)

My home state is overwhelmed with political ads because of a hotly contested senate campaign which could determine which party controls one half of Congress come January.

Apparently, one of the candidates, Rep. Tom Cotton, looks like me. I’m sure he is excited about this comparison, seeing how he served many years in the US Military and I have never had a meaningful workout in the my life.

So I’m in a restaurant a few months back and the waitress walks over, with a big smile on her face, pointing at me and says, “I can’t believe you are here. You are really here.” (See: Try Not to Curse During the Baby Dedication)

While I’ve been recognized a few times, I’ve never had someone that excited to see me. Before I could thank her for recognizing me and reading my articles, she said, “I can’t believe Tom Cotton is eating in our restaurant.”

With those words, I lowered my head and realized I’m not as famous as I thought.

I’m Not as Famous as I Thought (part 2)

A few weeks back I spoke during a moment of silence at a Cancer Survivor’s dinner. Being asked to speak during a moment of silence is a tricky proposition, but I did my best.

When I returned to the table, a kind woman mentioned how familiar I looked. I told her I had grown up in town, but she couldn’t make any connection. I told her about the church I pastored, but she couldn’t make any connection. Jenny whispered, “You can tell her,” so I grudgingly said, “Well I have this website which you have probably read.” But she quickly said, “No, that’s not it. I know. I dated your dad in High School.” (See: Ashes to Ashes)

So while I thought she knew me as a writer, she was actually recognizing me because I was almost her son.

To review:

Never be afraid to talk to your doctor.

Always question your sibling.

And just assume no one really knows you.

Happy Friday

Sep 252014

Working 10 to 12

I was a pastor today—all day. I woke up to a text message from someone in need and 15 hours later I came home just in time to put my son to bed.

These days are rare. I work for a church that doesn’t allow its staff to regularly work hours like I did today, but there are occasions in which it is necessary.

I don’t feel called to pastor. It’s what I do. I enjoy it, but it’s not my calling. (See: Sometimes You’ve Got to Mow the Driveway)

The pastorate is the current place in which I express my calling, but it may not always be the place.

I feel called to use words to tell stories and express ideas. Speaking those words is the most fun, but writing them is enjoyable as well.

I am able to pastor because on most days that job allows me to express my true calling. But not every day.

Some days, like today, force me to shelve my heart’s desire in order to do what others need. It’s a privilege to help, but it’s not something which brings my soul fully alive. (See: Stop Squandering Your Time)

Today I was a pastor, but at no point did I really use my gifts or live out my calling or do what I think God created me to do.

But the day isn’t over. It’s almost over, but a small amount remains.

I have a choice. I can either chalk this day up to one in which I don’t get to do what I truly love or I can get to work. Exhausted, mentally drained, and hoping that tomorrow is more productive, I can turn on my laptop, open a blank document, and begin to write.

The choice is fully mine. (See: You Always Have an Excuse)

I didn’t have much of a choice today regarding my schedule, but I have 100% control over the next two hours. I can use them as I wish.

Every day I talk to people who have dreams which are unfulfilled. They feel as though they aren’t living out their potential. They have callings which they feel are not expressed.

When we talk about their desires, they often describe their lives as if they are beyond their control. They want to do something, but they don’t have time.

I nearly always ask, “What do you do at 10pm?”

For me it is the ultimate test. (See: You Chose This–a Reflection on Time Management)

At the end of the day, when your job is over and the demands of your house are generally met, what do you do?

Few people understand the power of two hours a day. Whatever your dream, spending two hours a day on it will make it become reality. Whatever your calling, spending two hours a day on it will bring you fulfillment. Whatever your talent, spending two hours a day on it will improve it.

When people say they don’t have time, I simply do not believe them. We all have the same amount of time as everyone else. Sure, there are busy seasons. No doubt there are days in which we have little choices. But by and large, we will make time for that which we want to do. And even it means skipping dinner, losing sleep, and overlooking a dirty kitchen, we can at least work from 10–12 at night to do what we think we were created to do.

For too many people, they think their jobs are holding them back from their dreams. Stop using your job as your excuse. It pays the bills. It might allow you to express part of your gifting. It could teach you more skills than you would have otherwise. Your job is not the reason your dreams aren’t coming true. You unwillingness to work at the edges of the day—early in the morning or late at night—is the real reason you’re not expressing your calling. (See: Stop Waiting On Your Boss)

My life has been dramatically altered for the good by common people who spent the edges of their day doing what they felt they were created to do. Some practiced music and every Sunday they lead me in worship. Some studied the Bible and as a kid they would teach my Sunday School class every week. Some coached little league teams and they gave their time so I could learn a sport.

It wasn’t their job, but their job paid the bills so they could spend their other hours doing what they truly enjoyed.

My job isn’t a job. I enjoy the pastorate and I’m lucky to get paid to do what I do. However, there are days in which I do not feel as though I’m expressing my calling. Thankfully I always know that no matter what the day holds, no one chooses what I do from 10–12 at night except me. And for at least two hours a day, I can do what brings me the deepest sense of meaning and satisfaction.

Sep 242014

There’s More to Life Than Marriage

Marriage isn’t everything. It’s important. It’s a major thing, but it isn’t everything.

We live in a day in which society is downplaying the importance of marriage. False stats are purported (hint: your chance of divorce is not 50%), definitions are changing, and the importance of a lifetime commitment is often mocked.

Many people undervalue marriage. This is why I spend a lot of time writing about its importance, pleading for spouses to take it seriously, and highlighting the value which comes when we hold marriage in high regard.

To undervalue marriage is to devalue spouses, downplay the destruction which a bad or broken marriage causes, and destroy any possibility of a healthy relationship. (See: I May Not Be Married Tomorrow)

There is an equal, yet opposite mistake when it comes to marriage.

It is an equal mistake to over value marriage—to exalt it above what it was created to be, to expect things from it which it can never give, or to assume it is the answer to life’s greatest questions or needs.

If society often undervalues marriage, the church often over values it.

The intention is good. Seeing the destruction which comes from broken relationships and desiring to see people live out their commitments, the church is tempted to overstate the importance of marriage. The hope is that by making marriage sound even more important than it is that people will do a better job to live out their vows. (See: Why a New Spouse Rarely Leads to a Changed Life)

Sadly, over-valuing something does not empower others to do better. It actually has an opposite effect. Instead of helping marriages, it hinders them.

The danger of overstating the value of marriage is that it creates a standard which no relationship can experience.

Marriage is meant to be a deeply meaningful relationship. Yet it’s not supposed to be a person’s only relationship; it doesn’t have to be dramatically more refreshing than every other friendship.

Marriage demands more time and energy, but it shouldn’t demand an excessive amount of time or energy. Life is busy. We should give adequate time to our spouse, but we should not be expected to spend an excessive time with them.

Marriage can be a tremendous source of joy and satisfaction. Yet marriage isn’t the only source. A person can live an extremely fulfilling life having never been married. There are many advantages to the single life and many reasons why a person would willfully choose to refuse marriage. (See: Pastoral Advice for Single Women)

Marriage is great, but there are many more things to life than just marriage.

When I think about my six-year-old, I hope he grows up to experience marriage and fatherhood. I hope he commits his life to being a good and faithful husband. I want him to experience a close connection with someone in the same way that I experience a connection with my wife.

Yet I have more dreams for him as well. And if my hope for him to one day be married is not his desire or God’s plan, that would never mean his life is less than mine. It would simply mean it was different in some ways.

There are two ways to miss the meaning of marriage. We can undervalue it and never give it the time or attention it deserves. But we can also over value it and create an ideal which no relationship can never fully fulfill. (See: Is It Dead or Dormant?)

A better plan is to see marriage for what it is. It’s a foundational part of society which many will enjoy. Those who choose to make the commitment should work diligently at the relationship and greatly appreciate the opportunity to share life with another. However, we should never expect more from marriage than it offers.

Marriage is wonderful, but it’s not everything.

Sep 222014

A Christian Response to Islamic Terrorists

There is a competition currently taking place in the Middle East.

It’s a battle of the most gruesome extremes. Several Islamic terrorist groups are competing with one another for recruits. Much like American universities compete with one another over outstanding athletes or top-ranked scholars, these groups are competing for the allegiance of young men and women. (See: A Dangerous Assumption About God’s Will)

Their desire is to grow their ranks so they can expand their impact around the world.

The method of this competition is to be the most radically barbaric group in the region.

To me it is a race toward becoming the worst of humanity. It is the most evil of pursuits.

To them, it is a sign of strength. They want to be the most brutal in order to appear to be the most formidable opponent of the West.

What is a Christian response to this competition?

We understand a framework in which nations should respond. While we might disagree on the specifics (i.e. should their be boots on the ground), we know that good nations cannot sit idly by and watch these groups terrorize the people of the world. Someone must act. (See: Christianity Today’s Article “Why ISIS Must Be Stopped”)

But what is an individual to do? How does an individual Christian respond?

Our response should mimic their actions, but with one important difference.

In the same way that terrorists are using every resource they have to promote fear and evil, Christians should use every resource available to us to promote love and good.

Just as terrorists are trying to sabotage this world for evil, a Christian’s job is to sabotage this world for good.

Consider, in the Middle East terrorist groups are:

  • Brainstorming ideas of how to create evil
  • Identifying weak spots where they can more easily gain access to important places
  • Gathering money to finance their missions
  • Communicating their passion in hopes of convincing others to join them

So shouldn’t we be:

  • Brainstorming ideas of how to create good
  • Identifying weak spots where we can more easily gain access to places of influence
  • Gathering money to finance our mission
  • Communicating our passion in hopes of convincing others to join us

This isn’t the task of nations. They are charged with fighting evil through traditional means. They should be considering military offensives, economic sanctions, and diplomatic opportunities. (See: My First Response to a Natural Disaster)

Yet individuals, especially Christian individuals, have different responsibilities. It is our job to promote good even as militaries fight evil.

Years ago there was a show on television called The Mole. A group of contestants were charged with completing tasks, but one person within the group was secretly working as the mole. His job was to secretly create havoc and harm other contestants. Of course, a key element of the game was to go undetected. The mole desired to create as many problems as possible with as little fanfare as possible.

The role of a Christian is very similar. We are called to create as much good as possible with as little fanfare as possible.

How are you working for the good of others?

What are you doing that will have a positive effect on others but will never be known by anyone?

How are you secretly making life better for your spouse, child, co-worker, friend, opponent, or enemy?

If people found out everything you have done, would they be shocked by how much good was created?

Imagine if your country dropped you behind enemy lines in the middle of a great battle. Your task was to sabotage as much of the enemy’s plans as possible. You would spend every minute trying to accomplish as much as possible.

According to C.S. Lewis, Christians live in “enemy-occupied territory.” This world is not our home. God has dropped us behind enemy lines in order to sabotage this world for good. (See: How to Pray in the Dark)

A Christian’s response to Islamic terrorists is to use the method of Jesus. It is the way of love. To an unbeliever, it is a ludicrous assumption. How could love make any difference in the midst of so much evil? Yet to the one who has received the grace of God, there is no other way.

For more, see:

How We Respond to Suffering

God Controls Our Darkest Days

Sep 222014

Leadership: Learning to Take a Punch

Every leader has to be able to know how to take a punch.

It’s an aspect of leadership I never expected. When you dream of leadership, you never know that there are going to be days in which you feel beat up. I’m not asking for sympathy. This isn’t about me. You probably feel the same at times.

No matter who you lead, there are times in which punches are thrown. (See: Jesus, Leadership, and the Courage to Serve)

Few people really mean to throw a punch. They aren’t ill-intended; the last thing they would want to do is hurt you. It’s just part of life. As they do their job, live their lives, and strive to do what they should, they throw punches.

Many are justified. Most are just an aspect of leadership. But they still hurt, and on many occasions the punches add up, creating a state of exhaustion.

Of course some punches are intentional. Some people don’t like you, what you are doing, what you stand for, or all they know is to throw a punch at every person who is trying to do anything worthwhile.

Strangely the intentional punches are sometimes the easiest to take. They are expected, understood, and explainable. Too many of them might be overwhelming, but every leader knows that on occasion they will take a punch from someone who is unhappy.

What surprises us is how often it feels like we are taking a punch from a friend, an ally, or even ourselves.

The difference between good leaders and bad leaders is not the presence or absence of punches, it is the ability to take a punch and keep on going. (See: What No One Ever Tells You About Being a Leader)

Of course the question arises: What exactly is a punch? And the truth is, anything that feels like a punch is a punch. Anything which stops momentum, feels like a rub in a relationship, is difficult, personal, or hard-to-handle qualifies as a punch.

It hurts. We wish it didn’t happen. And if too many of them occur, we feel under attack.

Many punches need to happen. Differences need to be discussed, opinions need to be expressed, and issues need to be worked through.

As leaders, we don’t need to limit the punches which are thrown; we need to learn how take the punches which are thrown.

  • How can receive criticism without it hurting our heart?
  • How can we give the proper empathy when someone brings up an issue we consider small?
  • How can we stay focused on the mission when others want to pull us other directions?
  • How can we hear the concerns of others without taking it as a personal attack?
  • How can we show weariness even though others may not understand?

Unless a leader can take a punch, he cannot lead. At least he can’t for long. He might be able to for a period of time, but eventually he will get bitter, worn-out, and unable or unwilling to continue. (See: Leadership, Leaves, and Why We Should Never Give Up)

But a good leader knows how to take a punch.

She expects it as a part of leadership.

She regularly replenishes her soul in order to ensure she has strength.

She is so passionate about the mission that nothing will stand in her way.

She refuses to take any punch personally.

She seeks outside perspective to keep her on task.

She interacts with other leaders who also know what it is like to take a punch.

There are secrets about leadership which only leaders know. Tell someone about taking a punch as a leader and if they don’t understand the metaphor, they probably aren’t a leader. Tell it to someone else and they know exactly what you are talking about. (See: Who Wants to be a Leader?)

If you want to lead, learn how to take a punch.

Sep 192014

Most Parents Who Spank, Shouldn’t

When I was in second grade, a classmate was sent to the office to retrieve the paddle. When he returned to class, he reported the principal did not have the paddle. The teacher never second-guessed his answer.

Later that afternoon, when school was nearly out, the teacher allowed us to go in pairs to retrieve our backpacks from the hallway. I never forget the look on my friend’s face when he found his backpack with a large paddle sticking out of it. Our other friend had retrieved the paddle, hidden it in a backpack, and returned to class. (See: Three Things to Do When Parenting Goes Wrong)

I don’t know how many swats my classmate received for his lie, but I assume it was many more than he wanted.

Now that I have my own children in grade school, I can’t imagine one of them coming home having received a paddling. I have no problem with teachers and school administrators disciplining my children, but I would not want corporal punishment to be an option.

My experience mimics the progression of society on the topic of spanking. It’s perception has changed from being an assumed form of punishment to now being greatly doubted as ever being appropriate. (See: One Thing Every Parent Must Understand)

I’m somewhere in between regarding the national debate of spanking.

I disagree with those who say spanking should never happen. They often fail to differentiate between good parents who are trying to discipline their children and bad parents who hit their kids at every chance. To compare the average parent with the worst of child abuse is dishonest and unhelpful.

I also disagree with those who believe spanking must be done, with many of this position holding the Biblical text as proof of its importance. There is no question that the Book of Proverbs tells of the importance of the rod when dealing with children. Yet I believe the wisdom writer is simply using what was the common form of discipline in his day to communicate the importance of discipline.

Parents are Biblically free to spank, but I do not think they are Biblically commanded to do so. The Biblical command is they must discipline their children. Whether or not they spank is up to them.

Yet there is one thing of which I’m certain when it comes to spanking—most parents who do spank shouldn’t.

They shouldn’t because they lack the ability to truly spank in a way that is to the benefit of the child. When they spank, they most often do so out of their own frustration and anger. (See: Obey Your Mother, Respect My Wife)

This inability to remove their own emotion, think rationally, communicate clearly, and spank with compassion should prevent most parents from using corporal punishment. Too many children are being hit in the name of discipline when it has very little to do with true discipline.

If a parent believes spanking can be effective, and they can execute the discipline in an appropriate way, I have no problem with them spanking. However, when a parent has difficulty controlling their anger, they should never risk misusing spanking because of their emotion.

For parents, discipline is not an option. We must discipline our children not only for their sake, but also for the good of society. Spanking is one possible tool in the discipline toolbox. It is a tool which many should not use, not because the tool is broken, but because we do not know how to properly use it. (See: Which Parent Are You)

Sep 182014

One Thing Parents Control

Coming Soon: We’ve just shot a seven-week series on parenting which we will be releasing soon. Look for it in the upcoming weeks.

One of the perks of the pastorate is having multiple relationships with psychologists and therapists. I’m friends with several, pastor many, and work in the same office with two. This puts me in many conversations with them regarding common issues, especially parenting. I’m not sure what you do when you have a problem with your child, but when I have a problem with mine, I stalk one of my co-workers until I find them on lunch break and then I ask them to solve my problem.

In the beginning of parenthood, I would always say, “Here is what Ella is doing. Why is she doing that?” The intent of the question was to find out what was wrong with my daughter and how we could make her right. But after a few conversations, my approach changed. Now I say, “Here is what Ella is doing. What am I doing to contribute to that?

Not that every problem of a child can be traced back to a parent, but children are often defined by their environment. The younger they are, the more this is true. (See: Parenting–Too Involved, Not Involved Enough)

Give a two-year-old no structure and he will go wild.

Place a preschooler in a class where her teacher treats her like a bad child and she will be a bad child.

Seat a second-grader at a table with good students and he will become a better student.

Environment is often the defining characteristic of a child. Within the context of their genetic capabilities, environment determines if they will reach their potential or squander their giftedness.

The good news of parenting is that the younger a child is, the more the environment defines the child; AND the younger the child is, the more a parent controls their environment. (See: A Parenting Lesson From Jesus)

We choose the environments our children are in. It won’t always be the case. As they grow, the less influence we have on their environment. While we will always have control over our house, we do not control their school, the homes of their friends, and society at large. We can influence those things, but we do not control them.

However, for small children, we are completely in charge. We choose where they go, who they see, what they do, and nearly every aspect of their lives. The environment your small child is in is the environment you have chosen for them.

This does not mean that every time your child makes a mistake, it is your fault. It doesn’t mean you have to continually change their environment until they are perfect. Perfection is not possible.

It does mean that, more often than not, when a pattern of bad behavior emerges, you can look beyond your child for possible causes. Is the environment training them to make bad choices? (See: A Father’s Primary Role)

Environment consists of many things:

  • daily structure
  • bedtime routines
  • sleep habits
  • diet
  • screens—both what is on them and how much time is spent watching

Yet the number one environmental factor in our kids lives is us.

  • How do we handle stress?
  • How do we interact with them and others?
  • Do we displace our frustration about other situations onto them?
  • Are we fair? Patient? Kind?

Imagine an airplane slowly losing cabin pressure. It happens so slowly that no one notices the environment in the cabin is becoming oxygen-deficient. Slowly passengers slip into a euphoric phase and ultimately into a deep sleep as their brains struggle without oxygen. Without oxygen masks, the pilots will not be able to function.

The plane will eventually crash because no one on board will be able to land it. They are capable, but their environment has not provided them what they need to succeed. (See: My Four Favorite Parental Statements)

As a parent, it is my job to provide the best environment possible for my child to succeed. It won’t ensure their success, but it will make it more likely. Without the right environment, failure is almost guaranteed.

Few things influence our children like the environment they are in. Few things are as under our control as the environment our young children experience. As they age, our control will lessen. We will influence their environments, but control very few of them.

But when they are young, we make the choices. We decide the environments which are best for them.

Choose wisely.

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