Oct 242014

Stop Force-Feeding the Fish

I’m not a fisherman, but my wife is. Having grown up with ponds on their land and a fishing pole in her hand, my wife enjoys fishing and loves to pass on that enjoyment to our son. Last year she and Silas nearly won the Father/Son Fishing tournament.

On a family vacation, we visited a park with rivers stocked with rainbow trout. My six-year-old was happy to teach me what he knew about fishing. Underneath an old bridge was a good-sized fish. Silas was convinced he should catch him.

After a few minutes it was very clear we were not the first people to try to catch this large trout. Silas was actually dropping the bait right on top of the fish’s head with no luck. (See: Silas on the Sybil War, Col. Sanders, and Peeing Crooked)

The fish wasn’t hungry. Finally he gave up and we moved through the park to a less populated area. Soon he and Jenny had caught a fish. Then another.

The fish were biting here much more frequently.

The same pole, same bait, and same fisherman got radically different results in two different places along the river.

As I watched Silas, I didn’t care much about fishing, but I do care a lot about life and leadership.

If we aren’t careful as leaders, we can spend way too much time trying to force-feed the fish. We have confidence in our message; we like our delivery; we are convinced we have what others need. And often we are right.

However, we can’t force the fish to eat. (See: Do the Work)

Try as you may, you can’t force:

  • an employee to work hard
  • a teenager to obey
  • an addict to come clean
  • a person to choose wisely

We can hope, try, provide opportunities, and do everything in our power to create a climate for good choices, but we can’t do it for them. And trying to force-feed them neither makes them more likely to eat nor is a good use of our time.

Stop force-feeding the fish.

Of course this requires wisdom. We never want to give up on people. We always want to provide the opportunity for others. We never want to withhold information or opportunity which can make a difference in the lives of people. (See: Never Give Up on People)

However, there is too much to be done for us to spend too much time beating a fish on the head with bait. There are too many other fish who would happily jump at the chance to eat for us to spend an abundance of time trying to convince others to have motivation.

We can give opportunity and information, but we cannot force desire or motivation. Only an individual can make the choice to be motivated. We can provide examples and encouragement, but we can’t make someone want something.

And when someone has proven their unwillingness to make a good choice, we cannot give up on them, but we can stop expending extraordinary energy on them.

We must realize, our time is a zero sum game. To give time, attention, or energy to one person is to choose not to give it to someone else. If our time and energy were unlimited then we wouldn’t have to worry about wasting time. We could keep force-feeding the fish. Yet because we are finite, because time is limited, and because our window of opportunity is small, we must choose wisely in how we spend our time. This includes people.

It’s never easy. We should never take it lightly. But we should be very deliberate in how we are spending our energy. (See: You Chose This–a Reflection on Time Management)

My son really wanted to catch the big fish underneath the bridge. But he could have spent his whole time fishing trying to convince that one fish to bite and he never would have caught anything. Instead, he moved to a new fishing hole and found great success.

Sometimes our problem is our bait. Sometimes it’s the pole. Sometimes we just have bad timing. But on occasion, the problem isn’t us; it’s the fish.

After looking at everything you control, if you keep failing to the get the results you want, stop force feeding the fish and find some fish that are hungry.

Oct 232014

A Parent’s Most Effective Tool in Discipline

This is episode four of the The 7 Series: Parenting. In this episode we continue our discussion on the “what” of parenting. What does a parent do to exercise their authority and love?

Show Notes:

As obvious as the relationship between choices and consequences, we often forget this relationship.

It is generally true that good choices lead to good consequences and bad choices lead to bad consequences. It is a proverbial truth for both parents and children.

We want our kids to know that they are in control of much more of their lives than they realize. This can only happen as we allow them to experience the full weight of the consequences of their choices.

Parents should always feel the tension between “should I let my children experience the consequences of their decisions or should I rescue my children from them.”

As quickly as possible, we should try to let our kids experience as many consequences of their decisions as we can.

For as long as we protect our children from the natural consequences of their decisions, we are preventing our children from taking control of their lives.

When we take consequences away from our children, we are training our children to learn that either their choices don’t matter or their decisions are not very destructive.

Sometimes we should rescue our children from life, but we want to use this ability as little as possible.

Whenever we let our children experience the consequences of their decisions, we don’t leave them alone, we walk beside them in their suffering.

As parents, especially of younger children, we both inflict the consequences upon them (authority) and we walk beside them (love) through those consequences.

We can experience bad consequences because of: our own bad choices, the bad choices of others, or as an aspect of living in a fallen world. It is vital to identify the source of the bad consequence in order to help us understand how to navigate the issue.

For more on the cheerleader illustration, see: Cheerleader Tryouts–when dreams don’t come true.

Consequences are the primary tool for a parent regarding discipline. We wrongly assume our words are the most powerful tool, but we are wrong.

Reminding our children of how their choices led to bad consequences empowers them to understand the control they have over their lives.

Know the difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment is always about the past. We inflict pain because of a bad past decision. Discipline is always about the future. It’s allowing a child to experience negative consequences so they can make better choices in the future.

Punishment is about outward behavior; discipline is about the heart. We should care more about the heart than behavior.

Spouses should quickly remind one another to focus on the heart of the child, not on the punishment.

It’s okay to let our children see the tension we feel in trying to discipline them properly.

For more, see:

Beliefs Have Consequences

My Four Favorite Parental Statements

 

 

Oct 222014

We Are In This for the Long-Haul

We aren’t promised tomorrow. We know that. Everyday is a gift and while we don’t appreciate every day like we should, we do regularly recognize the blessing of the moment—a quick conversation when the house is suddenly silent, the joyous moments when the family is having fun, the rare escapes when it is just the two of us, the feeling of blessed exhaustion at the end of the day.

As a pastor and pastor’s wife, we live in a routine awareness that what we have could be taken from us at any moment. I have performed too many funerals to live for too long in ignorance. I’ve been in too many ER waiting rooms when bad news has come. I’ve sat with too many individuals who desperately want what we have. (See: I May Not Be Married Tomorrow)

We know we are fortunate to have each other for this time and we know it will not last forever.

But we are in this for the long haul. It may not be God’s plan, but it is our plan. This is our approach: we don’t assume tomorrow, but we prepare for tomorrow.

The philosophy influences our marriage in two ways:

1. We don’t assume tomorrow. We appreciate today. We don’t take it for granted. We realize it is a gift.

By not assuming tomorrow, we are more likely to:

  • take a trip
  • go for a walk
  • recognize the moment
  • laugh
  • see the good

If couples aren’t careful, they can spend their whole marriages waiting to truly live and love. All their focus can be on tomorrow so that they never spend money today, never make memories, never enjoy each other, and never experience gratitude for what they have been given.

This is no way to live and no way to be married. (See: One Thing Great Couples Do That Others Don’t)

If we assume tomorrow, we will likely fail to appreciate today. What’s the point of having 10,000 tomorrows if we never appreciate any of them.

Consider the value of today in regards to your marriage. It may not be true tomorrow, but I know that today I have someone on my side, concerned for my well-being, working hard not just for herself but also for me, and while we may not get much time together today, we will make the most of every second we have.

2. We prepare for tomorrow. Unless God has other plans, we will be married tomorrow. It may not happen, but we plan on it happening. We are in this marriage for the long haul. That doesn’t mean forever, but it does mean for as long as we both have breath.

Planning on being married for the rest of our lives influences how we live.

By planning for tomorrow, we are more likely to:

Those who fail to prepare for tomorrow rarely stay married. They get overwhelmed by the challenges of life. They are shocked when the honeymoon phase of marriage diminishes. They are tossed by emotion and circumstance. They fail to grow, learn, or develop.

Consider what tomorrow holds for your marriage. If you will be married for the next forty years, aren’t there some things you need to change? Aren’t there some skills you need to learn? Aren’t there some disagreements that probably shouldn’t matter? (See: How to Stay Married in the Tough Times)

This perspective of living for both today and tomorrow has unique effects on our marriage. For example, we are more likely to spend money and to save money because we appreciate today and prepare for tomorrow. We are more likely to spend money on experiences, because we may not have time to make those experiences in the future. At the same time, we are more likely to save money because we want to be prepared for tomorrow. This spending and saving habit means we much refuse to spend money in wasteful ways or on objects which will not greatly influence our lives. Interestingly, you can both spend more and save more if you focus on what is important and refuse to waste money. (See: Money Can Make You Happy)

Living with this mindset has two main byproducts: gratitude and patience.

Gratitude comes from living for today. We have a deep appreciation for the opportunity we have been given.

Patience comes from living for tomorrow. Because we are living for the long-haul, we don’t have to fix or achieve everything today.

We plan on being married for a long time, but we are more than aware this could be our last day together. We never know what life has in store. By planning for tomorrow and appreciating today, we hope to have a long marriage and we plan on being grateful for every day we have.

How do you view your marriage? Do you err too much on ignoring tomorrow or too much on ignoring today?

What is one way you can live for both today and tomorrow?

 

Oct 212014

You Are Preventing You

My dog has an annoying habit: whenever I try to come inside, she gets right in front of me, sits down, and puts her snout on my leg.

It’s clearly a cry for attention. With two small kids, we do not give our outside dog enough attention. She’s starved for it and when she actually receives attention, she longs for more. She desires so much more, she doesn’t want me to go inside.

Of course when she puts her snout on my leg, her slobbery nose gets all over my pants. It’s frustrating. Before I go outside, I have to check my closet and my watch to see if I have the clothes and the time to play with my dog.

My dog’s actions have one effect—they make me less likely to spend time with her.

Notice the irony: what my dog does in hopes of getting me to spend more time with her is causing me to spend less time with her. Her actions are having the reverse effect of her intention. (See: I Know Who’s in Charge of Your Family)

As it is with her, so it is with many of us. Many times our actions have the reverse effects of our intentions.

The man so desperate for a relationship that he falls in love after every first date scaring away any sane, healthy, emotionally-aware woman.

The woman in such need for one sale that she nearly attacks every potential client causing them to avoid every contact with her. (See: Stop Waiting on your Boss)

The waiter trying to make a personal connection in order to get a big tip won’t leave the couple on a date alone long enough for them to have a real conversation which frustrates the man as he signs his ticket.

The car dealer so afraid of not being a pushy car salesman becomes so hands-off that people do not think that he truly wants their business.

More often than we realize, our actions can actually have the reverse effect of our intentions. Imagine a gardener who so desperately wants a seed to grow that she over waters the garden. In her eyes, she is giving every waking minute to her garden. What she doesn’t realize is that she is actually preventing it from growing. (See: I Just Want to be Happy)

This is the scenario for many people in business, friendships, and especially intimate relationships.

When one relationship fails we can fairly assume it was just the circumstances of life. However, whenever we see a repeated pattern in our lives, our attention must turn to ourselves and we must ask, “What are we doing to contribute to this pattern?”

If you want to be married, but you are never dating—what are you doing which is preventing you from connecting with others?

If you have been married, several times, and all the relationships have had similar failed outcomes—how do you continually make bad choices of who to be in a relationship with ?

If you go from church to church or group to group looking for friends but you can’t seem to connect with anyone, what are you doing which is preventing you from making good connections?

Way too often, we are quick to blame others, curse circumstances, or define groups as being full of cliques, but we are not quick to consider our own actions, review our own tendencies, and see how we are contributing to a problem.

Rarely are we solely responsible for bad outcomes, but rarely are we void of any responsibility. (See: Remember This When You Make a Mistake)

In nearly every circumstance we play a role in failure. And when a pattern repeats itself in our lives with different people being involved, we are the common denominator.

I’ve met many people who are great at marriage, but horrible at choosing a mate. Of course the result is always divorce. It’s not until they recognize their weaknesses and get help in those areas that they can then experience the happiness they desire.

Are there patterns of failure in your life? Are there outcomes you’ve experienced in the past which you do not want to repeat?

If so, what is the common thread in every situation?

And what are you doing to contribute to the problem. (See: The Secret to a Good Decision)

Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, you are the one truly preventing you.

Oct 202014

The Most Powerful Divide in All of Life

A researcher looking at the nature of political bias did a study. He divided a group of Republicans and Democrats into mixed groups and then asked them a series of questions. Each question was about the current state of the economy, healthcare, and other issues which relate to politics. To one group, each question was asked without reference to political leadership. The question was “In the last few years do you believe the economy has improved or declined?” But to the second group, every question was asked in reference to political leadership. “Since (current President or current Governor) took office, has the economy improved or declined?” (See: A Forgotten Sign of Adulthood)

In theory, the questions were identical questions. But the results were dramatically different. When asked questions in reference of time, everyone answered about the same. However, when asked in reference to current political leadership, each person’s answer could be directly linked to their political affiliation. If their political party was in power, those responding thought things had improved. If their political opponents were in power, those responding thought things had declined. (See: Jesus Isn’t As Conservative or Liberal as You Think He Is)

The most powerful division in all of life is “us vs. them.”

Nothing influences our behavior, understanding, and thoughts as much as this divide.

And that is good.

This division is what causes us to stand against evil, move from apathy to action, and do what needs to be done.

But it’s also bad. (See: Learning to Take a Punch)

This division can be created even when it’s unnecessary. It can blind us to truth, cause us to believe lies, and result in repulsive behavior.

For these reasons, a leader must be very cognizant of the “us vs. them divide” and must respond to it in two ways.

At times, a leader will need to exploit the divide.

Is your company struggling? Is your team drifting? Are those you are leading apathetic? They need someone to fight. They need an opponent. A good leader has the ability to identify worthy opponents, ideas worth defeating, goals worth attacking, in order to rile up his followers. Unless a leader can point to an opponent, he probably cannot lead.

Opponents create the “why” for a group. If we don’t act, “they” will. And what “they” will do is bad, evil, corrupt, or negative to us and others. (See: What Should a Leader Care About?)

By creating the divide, leaders can build unity within their team, convince each individual to do their part, and cause a team to look toward the big picture of winning.

Coaches create an “us vs. them” mentality in the locker room. Most often the “them” is the other team, but at other times the “them” is the other team and everyone else. It’s “us vs. the world” they will say.

Business leaders create an “us vs. them” mentality in the boardroom. Maybe the “them” is a rival company or it is those trying to hold customers back.

Non-profit leaders and church leaders create an “us vs. them” mentality with volunteers. Without a person’s dedicated service evil might triumph over good or victims might suffer at the hands of perpetrators.

Whatever group you are leading, properly identifying one’s opponent and creating an “us vs. them” mentality is necessary for good action.

Yet there are other times a leader will need to expose the divide.

While the divide is a powerful tool to create unity, it can also destroy unity when not properly harnessed. The “us vs. them” concept is such a part of human nature, we will create the divide even when it doesn’t need to exist. Subconsciously, we will make friends into enemies and teammates into opponents. (See: You Control What Matters Most)

This can greatly hinder a mission. How many times have we seen teams fighting among themselves? How often do spouses stop fighting with one another and start fighting against one another?

When the “us vs. them” divide isn’t exposed, given attention, and mended, humanity will naturally divide into unhealthy divisions which will destroy any chance of accomplishing anything important.

Part of leadership is calling would-be opponents into useful partnerships. It’s showing people the common ground which exists and drawing attention to how both can win if they would work together. (See: Marry a Partner, Not a Child)

Marriages, families, teams, companies, organizations, and communities desperately need leaders who can rightly expose improper divides and reunite broken relationships.

One of the key roles as a leader is understanding the “us vs. them” divide and knowing when to exploit it and when to expose it. Few things will unify your team as fast as a proper opponent. Few things will destroy unity as fast as an internal divide.

Oct 172014

This Is When to Talk to Your Kids

Few questions in life are as difficult as knowing when to speak and when to keep silent.

We all know there is a time to speak and a time to listen. We also know there is a time that even if we aren’t listening, we should at least be quiet.

Yet when should we do which? That is always a difficult question.

It’s even more difficult in the realm of parenting.

Conversation is an important aspect of parenting. It’s the main “how” of parenting. You can’t parent if you don’t communicate. My assumption is that the greatest needs of most parents is the need to improve their communication skills. To communicate better is to parent better.

Yet no matter a person’s communication ability, knowing when to speak and when not to speak is the most difficult of questions.

While I do not have a perfect answer to that question, there is one tendency which I have seen in all parents—especially myself.

The circumstances which make me most likely to speak are the same circumstances which make my children most likely not to listen.

I’m at the driving range with my son. We are there to kill some time, enjoy the outdoors, and see if he is interested in a sport I love. I hope he is, but I work hard to put no pressure upon him to like it.

As we are hitting balls, what is the most likely time for me to speak? Of course it is when he is doing something wrong. Whether he is disobeying me by not following the driving range rules or if he is struggling with his swing, both situations tempt me to speak.

And in the first scenario I have to speak. The rules of the driving range are in place for his safety and the enjoyment of others. When he violates those rules, I must correct him.

However, the second situation doesn’t demand my attention. But it creates a desire within me which is very difficult to ignore.

I am most tempted to speak to my kids whenever they have done wrong or are struggling to succeed. In times of failure or frustration, I speak to them. The longing for this action is born from good intent. I love my children and I want to help them. I want them to do better, be better, and experience more. This desire creates a tremendous urge within me to speak to them whenever I see something I can fix.

Yet at the moment in which I most desire to speak, I likely most need to be quiet.

Why?

It makes sense to speak in these moments:

  • the issue is top of mind
  • I recognize something which can help
  • to remain silent risks them continuing the wrong action

There are many reasons why I should speak in these moments, but there is one reason I should be quiet—whenever a child is struggling, they are least likely to listen.

Do you sometimes wonder why parenting is frustrating? Imagine this combination—at the moment I’m most likely to speak, my child is least likely to listen.

Of course there are times in which it doesn’t matter if they are going to listen or not, I’m speaking. But most often, whenever I speak, I’m likely just speaking to the wind.

Parents would often be better served to speak to their children when their children are succeeding, happy, and quick to listen rather than trying to force attention when they are upset. Remember what you want to communicate and communicate it at another time.

This is when you talk to your kids—when they are ready to listen.

It is less frustrating and more fruitful for all parties involved.

There are times in which I will communicate to my children no matter how they feel in the moment. Yet most of the time I should put them before me and communicate at the most effective moment when they will listen.

 

Oct 162014

How Do We Teach Our Children to Make Wise Choices? (Episode 3)

This the third episode of The 7 Series: Parenting. To see the first two episodes, click here and here.

Show Notes:

Authority and Love reveal the “why” of parenting.

Choices and consequences define the “what” of parenting.

Empowering our children to make wise choices is one of the primary goals of parenting.

Outcomes generally tell us if we made good choices, but not always.

We believe we are good at making choices in spite of all the evidence showing that we are bad at making choices.  (See: Dr. Seuss Said You Are Bad at Decision Making)

This is the danger of parenting: we think we naturally make good choices, we don’t, and we are called to teach our children how to make good choices.

Our children often reflect the choices we are making.

Parents must recognize the danger in decision making. This allows us to understand the need to learn wise decision-making.

How do we teach our children to make good choices: primarily by making wise choices ourselves.

As much as possible, bring your children into the decision-making process to show them how decisions are made.

Because our kids are watching, our temptation is to cover up our bad choices, but in reality we need to reveal them.

Choices are extremely important, but as parents we don’t have to get them all right. Whenever we make a mistake, we have a great chance to teach our kids. (See: Remember This When You Make a Mistake)

I want my children to make as many choices as they can with me making as few as possible. Slowly release more and more decisions to them.

Choices empower people. It allows children to understand they have influence on the world and their own lives.

We actually want our kids to make some bad choices so we can help them learn from their mistakes.

As parents there is not always direct correlation between an individual outcome and an individual decision. We are only responsible for the decisions we make. Our kids are responsible for the decisions they make.

We often struggle over the decisions that don’t matter (sports, grades, etc) instead of giving proper time to the decisions which do matter (sleep, eating, faith).

Choices are only important because they have consequences.

For more information:

Stop Freaking Out: A Lesson on Decision Making

The Second Step to Making a Good Decision

The Secret to a Good Decision

Oct 152014

The Math of a Good Marriage: 1+1=3

In a good marriage, the two become one. Yet they also remain two.

They don’t become one at the expense of the two. They become one in addition to the two.

When marriage works, 1+1=3.

There are two ways to miss the equation to success.

Some miss it because the two never become one. Each partner remains their own identity, but they never become a true couple. Each lives their own lives and they never experience the power of togetherness. By themselves they can accomplish much, but they have not learned to accomplish more than what they can do on their own. In this relationship 1+1=2. They are good, but they are only as good as two, no different than when they were married.

Some miss it because the two become one, but they lose all sense of individual identity. This type of relationship is tricky because they couple might believe they have a healthy marriage. They do everything together and appear very much in love. However, they have lost their individual selves. They are unable to accomplishing anything without the other. In this relationship, 1+1=1. They are good, but they are only as good as one. (See: My Best Friend, But Not My Only Friend)

In a healthy marriage, each spouse keeps their individual identity, enjoys themselves, accomplishes things without their partner, while also merging into a powerful partnership. They are both individuals and a couple.

This is how I want my marriage to be—me, her, and us. (See: Wake Up Every Day and Consider How to Make Her Dreams Come True)

I am me. I exist beyond my spouse. She doesn’t define me. She doesn’t complete me. She doesn’t dictate who I am as an individual. Even without her, I’m still me. I am responsible for myself, my own happiness, my own identity, my own relationship with God and others.

She is her. She has a life beyond me. I don’t define her. I don’t complete her. I don’t dictate who she is as an individual. Even without me, she is still her. She is responsible for herself, her own happiness, her own identity, and her relationship with God and others.

Yet we are also us. We define who we are as a couple. There are things which only we do together. There are aspects of our lives which are a joint venture. Without her, I don’t act. Without me, she doesn’t act. We have our individual things, but we also have our couple things.

This is marriage at its best. It harnesses both the strength of two individuals and the power of a united couple. When any of these three aspects is not fully functioning, they all suffer.

A marriage can only thrive when each spouse maintains their individual identity. Individuals can best thrive when their marriage is strong.

In a good marriage, 1+1=3. (See: Stop Spending Your Spouse’s Dreams)

Does your marriage equal three?

If no, why not?

What is suffering?

Are you failing as a couple? Is your relationship a complete partnership or has it become lopsided? Do you spend a proper amount of time together? Are their activities which you only do as a couple? Are you striving together toward a common goal?

Are you failing as an individual? Have you lost your identity? Do you spend a proper amount of time alone? Are you working diligently? Are you nourishing your soul? (See: No Wonder You Don’t Love Each Other)

Is your spouse failing as an individual? Are you allowing them to spend ample time to themselves? Are you encouraging their individual achievement? Are you supporting them in their dreams and aspirations?

Because the math of a good marriage is 1+1=3, I have two responsibilities in marriage–me and us. I am not in charge of my wife. I am in charge of myself and I can greatly influence the relationship.

At it’s best, there are few things better than marriage. It makes me better as an individual and makes me part of something I could never be on my own.

Oct 142014

The Number One Rule of Disagreement

Every Sunday I speak on two different occasions for around 40 minutes. Each week I write five posts of about 750 words. Everyday I lead a non-profit organization made up of hundreds of volunteers.

Needless to say, there are occasions in which people disagree with me.

Yet I’ve noticed something about these disagreements. Some are effective critiques which cause me to evaluate my own opinion and often strengthen my relationship with a person even if we don’t end up with the same ideas. Others are damaging events which cause me to more firmly believe my thoughts and distance myself from the person raising the issue.

There is only one difference between the two. (See: I Can Say It and It Won’t Kill Us)

People who are effective at offering useful critiques refuse to make an issue personal.

The number one rule of disagreement is do not make it personal.

It sounds like an obvious rule, but it is one which is very difficult to follow.

No matter our background or experience, human tendency is to state a critique or differing opinion and then to do everything in our power to prove our point—to win the argument.

The desire to defeat the other person rather than to understand the other person makes it very tempting to allow an opinion to define the whole person. Instead of discussing an issue, we question their mind, heart, and soul. Surely if they do not think like what we think, something must be wrong with them.

Of course this viewpoint is wrong on two levels: (See: Five Types of Social Media Jerks)

1. We always assume there is a clear right or wrong about a specific issue. We assume this even though issues are rarely black and white. Even when most of the world agrees on an issue like our need to stop terrorism, no one is really sure how to do so and many different plans are offered as possible solutions. While a few issues are clearly right or wrong, many are not.

2. We always assume we are right. We assume this even though every aspect of our lives reveal that we are often wrong about many things. It’s sadly humorous when a person who can’t balance his own family budget is frustrated because politicians struggle with the complexities of international finance.

Issues are rarely black and white and even when they are, we are rarely right.

We cannot deny disagreements. We can’t hide from them or ignore them. We must be able to openly communicate with others including freely expressing disagreeing viewpoints. (See: Gossip Is More Damaging Than Adultery)

Yet there is one basic rule which nearly every person violates when voicing dissent. The number one rule of disagreement is do not make it personal.

It is a common human tendency when voicing dissent to take a disagreement in idea or belief and make into a discussion of which person is better. This habit has disastrous consequences. It causes:

  • marriages to end
  • communities to languish
  • churches to split
  • friendships to fracture
  • businesses to die

Our inability to discuss the actual issue and our necessity to win an argument is childish, dishonest, and deeply painful to ourselves and others.

Ironically, the less we are certain about our opinion, the more likely we are to be vicious against those with whom we disagree. (See: A Sign of Doubt)

In our attempt to win arguments, we often raise an issue, but then deflect from the actual disagreement and pile on other issues in hopes of showing how wrong the other person is.And if we can’t pile on other issues, we attack the person’s character or heart.

Consider:

  • Is the President wrong or is he evil?
  • Did the referee miss a call or did he try to steal the game?
  • Does the other person have a different perspective than you or are they stupid?

Why can’t we just disagree? Why do we have to make the issue personal? Why do we have to question a person’s character, intent, patriotism, and faith just because we see an issue differently?

We don’t and we shouldn’t.

Knowing the human temptation toward making disagreements personal, we should approach them in a different way:

We should expect them more often. The more aware we are of our own imperfections, the more we should expect others to disagree with our thoughts and viewpoints. We all have a variety of opinions so of course disagreements will arise. If you often have disagreements with the people you love the most (your family) why should it surprise you when other people disagree with your opinion or idea? (See: Don’t Seek Conflict, But Do Embrace It)

We should approach them more carefully. Because of the human tendency to make issues personal, we should be very cognizant of that temptation when we approach a confrontation and very careful about the words we choose when dealing with an issue.

We should conclude them more humbly. Even if we conclude a disagreement with still disagreeing, we should conclude the discussion in a humble way. I could be wrong, you could be wrong, we both could be right, we both could be wrong, etc. And even if you are wrong on this issue, I know I’m wrong on other issues, so I should never allow you being wrong about one issue to define my whole perception of who you are as a person. (See: Use Hard Words Not Harsh Words)

When we do these three things, we will be more likely to stay on topic and refuse the temptation of making things personal.

Feel free to disagree, just don’t question my intelligence, compassion, or faith as you do so.

Oct 132014

Why I Discourage Christians from Politics

On occasion people call me and ask for advice. It is my job to give the best advice I can based on the information I have and the person to whom I am speaking. Sometimes this leads to conflicting advice.

The leader of a corporate search committee called me. His organization was in chaos and the board needed a strong CEO who could dramatically change the culture. He asked if I had any ideas. I did. Without hesitation I told him exactly who the company should hire. The candidate was smart, strong, and savvy. She would not only make a stellar CEO, but would also be a tremendous asset to the community.

The next week I received a call from my suggested candidate. Out of the blue she had received a call from a company about becoming their CEO. The search committee told her I recommended her. She called to ask why I thought the job was right for her. “It’s not,” I said. (See: Jesus, Leadership, and the Courage to Serve)

Confused she asked me to clarify. I told her in my opinion they should hire her but she shouldn’t take the job. She is exactly what they need, but they are the last thing she needed. The company was in too much disarray and it just wouldn’t be worth her effort. However, if she wanted the job, she was the perfect candidate.

Whenever I think about the current state of American politics and Christian faith, I think the situation is similar to the corporate job and my friend.

Never has there been a time in which I would encourage the need for good people of faith to be involved in the world of politics.

Never has there been a time in which I would discourage good people of faith from involving themselves in the world of politics. 

I cannot fathom a situation in which I would encourage an individual to run for political office. (See: Jesus Isn’t as Conservative or Liberal as You Think)

In today’s climate it is impossible to abide by Biblical teaching and get elected to public office.

To encourage a Christian to run for state-wide or national office is to encourage them to endure one of two fates:

1. Certain defeat.

2. Disobedience to basic Biblical principles.

Neither seem like something I can in good conscience encourage a friend to endure.

These are the options because the current political climate does not tolerate truth, honesty, discernment, nuance, or wisdom. Instead, it values deception, immediacy, denial, and everything contrary to well-thought-out truth.

Consider: (See: Read This Before You Die)

  • Can someone become President or Senator without lying?
  • Can they win without turning a blind eye to evil done in their name (think outside political action committees)?
  • Can they be successful without twisting the words or votes of an opponent?
  • Can they gain votes without simplifying their opponents objections?

Sadly, many Christians and pastors have concluded the “ends justify the means.” Of course this idea is in no way Biblical. Jesus would never make that case. Yet seeing the great need in Washington and our state capitols, good men and women have chosen to do whatever necessary to get elected while assuming they will operate truthfully while in office.

Of course all evidence points to the opposite. Washington is not full of bad people (although there are many bad people there); instead the system of Washington doesn’t allow good people to operate the right way. Our system takes good people and makes them do bad things. Each individual is responsible for their actions, but we are responsible for the system.

It’s possible for Christians to be involved in local politics without acting against their faith. But I see no evidence that it is possible to do so in national politics.

I just watched a debate between two people I like running for a prominent office in my state. Both men seem good at heart. But both are lying. Both are doing whatever it takes to gain votes. Both are ignoring what outside groups are doing in their name to smear their opponent. I eventually turned off the debate because if I kept watching I would have ended up disliking both candidates.

That isn’t fair to the candidates. They are good men with good hearts. But the system is broken. We would never vote for someone who told the truth, who: (See: This Would Change Politics as We Know It)

  • called us to make difficult sacrifices for the sake of the future
  • told us what we didn’t want to hear even though it’s true
  • listened to others and changed his/her opinion based on new information
  • ignored party leaders and did what was right
  • humbly considered the opinion of others

If a candidate did that, they would certainly lose. So good people have the option—they can lose or they can lie. Sadly, many choose to lie.

I know many will disagree with my opinion. They will decry the current state of politics of our country and will scream of the need of good people involved in politics. I understand and appreciate their thoughts. But I strongly disagree that a Christian can claim the “ends justify the means.” Either a Christian gets elected while living out his/her faith in the election process or they reject office all together.

Unfortunately, I can’t imagine a scenario in which success is possible. So a Christian can either try to make a point by losing or they can simply choose not to run. (See: Three Loves to Change Your Life)

If the leader of a political party called and asked who should run for Governor, Senator, or President, I would have a short list of several people who would make the perfect candidate. Yet if that person called and asked me if they should run, I would say, “never.”

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