Oct 312014

This Is How a Christian Should Vote

As an American, a person can vote however they wish.

Some say there should be no litmus test. They believe you have to separate church and state in the voting booth or they claim you have to vote a certain way, but it’s not true. The joy of a democracy is that a person is free to vote however they wish.

If one policy is more important to you than others, vote based on that policy.

If you want someone from your religion, refuse to vote for any others.

If you believe in a particular party, vote along a party line.

If you are anti-incumbents, vote them all out.

The greatness of the American system is you can do whatever you want in the privacy of the voting booth and it doesn’t matter what anyone says. (See: Why I Can’t Say ‘America Is Going to Hell in a Handbasket’)

And contrary to what people say:

As an American, you can do as you wish, but as a Christian you don’t have such freedom. There is a specific way a Christian should vote. It has nothing to do with party. It does not revolve one issue or a limited set of issues. It isn’t about family values or traditional Christian ideals.

Here is how a Christian should vote: having studied the issues as best they can, without arrogance in believing their way is the only way, and in faith, trusting God with the results.

That’s it.

This means two Christians can vote in completely opposite ways and be in total obedience to God. It means there is not only one way for a Christian to vote. It demands humility in understanding our human frailty, knowing we could be wrong. It creates compassion toward others no matter how they vote or if they vote. It results in unity because we care more for the well-being of others than our political viewpoint.

The Christian faith should deeply influence our interaction with politics. While it will drive some toward political involvement and others away from political involvement, it should keep all of us from being deceived into thinking politics is the answer to what ails America or the world.

Sadly, many believe faith dictates a vote for a certain political party or candidate. They fail to see the complexity of issues and are shocked believers could vote differently. Yet this isn’t how our faith influences our politics. (See: Jesus Isn’t as Conservative or Liberal as You Think)

Faith should influence how we vote, but it should not influence us all to vote the same way. As faith mixes with our experience, passion, and concern, good Christian people will vote in opposite ways about very important issues.

Faith, however, should create a uniformity in our process of how we vote. Every believer should, in faith, vote in the way they know best with a complete dependence on God to do as he sees fit.

Some of the strongest believers I know believe there is no use in politics and they choose not to be involved in the voting process. Most of the believers I know see deep importance of the responsibility we have been given and can’t fathom not exercising their right to vote. Some believers vote a straight party ticket–some Democrat and some Republican. Other believers would never be tied to a single party. But every mature Christian I know has one thing in common when it comes to politics–they find more unity with fellow believers who vote differently than they do with those who share their political views but do not know Jesus.

Politics divides us, but Christians find unity in their need for the cross of Jesus. We all should remember that when we vote.

For more, see:

This Would Change Politics as We Know It

Why I Discourage Christians from Politics

If This Is True It Will Blow Your Mind

Oct 302014

Environment: Control What You Can Control

This is episode five of The 7 Series: Parenting. In this episode we begin to discuss the “how” of parenting. Environment and conversations are the two primary avenues through which a parent expresses their authority and love while allowing a child to experience the power of choice and consequence.

For more on the topic of environment, see One Thing Parents Control.

Show Notes:

The Why of parenting: Authority and Love

The What of parenting: Choices and Consequences

The How of parenting: Environment and Conversations

Environment may be the most overlooked aspect of parenting.

The younger our children, the more we control their environment.

Everything has an environment (a culture): an assumed way in which we do things.

Sadly, too many parents allow their kids to live in an environment which is formed by accident, not intention.

Consider choices and consequences: the environment we provide often determines the choices our children make.

Part of a healthy environment prevents a child from facing a choice before they are ready.

Intention is the key thought of environment.

Environment is determined on the answer to the question: who do we want to be?

Find the gap between who you are and who you want to be. (See: What Every Parent Should Look For)

When the environment is violated, the violator must be called out.

Kids will grow up assuming the environment in which they were raised is the right way.

It is not our job to judge other environments, but it is our job to form the environment we desire for our family.

Environment is not just about place; it’s also about relationships: How do we interact with one another? How do we handle mistakes? Do we trust one another?

Environment determines how we operate.

When done well, environment gives a child routine, predictability, stability, and comfort.

Here are the two posts I reference about cell phones and televisions: Five Rules for Every Teenager and Why We Don’t Have a Television in the Bedroom

Children should slowly be released into new responsibilities and environments.

Your kids need to see you submitting to your chosen environment.

Consider the top five issues most important to your children: think about how important sleep and eating are to their success.

Sometimes by the choice of environment we limit the choices our kids have to make.

Repetitive bad choices by a child should cause a parent to reconsider the environment.

 

Oct 292014

Books Three Leaders Recommend

On Wednesday October 29 in association with John Brown University, I will be facilitating a discussion with an eclectic group of leaders. You are welcome to join us if you live in the region or can watch live at 6:00, CST by clicking here.

For background on our panelist, click here.

Please visit, Noble Impact to see how you can encourage students to engage in public service through entrepreneurship.

Top Ten Leadership Posts:

1. Jesus, Leadership, and the Courage to Serve

2. What Should a Leader Care About?

3. Learn to Take a Punch

4. Eight Leadership Lessons Ella Taught Me in her First Eight Years

5. Leadership, Leaves, and Why We Should Never Give Up

6. Who Wants to Be a Leader?

7. What No One Ever Tells You About Being a Leader

8. Choose Success Over Comfort

9. The Trait I Admire Most in Leaders

10. Seven Leadership Lessons from Gus Malzahn

 

Book Recommendations:

Here are three books which each leader has recommended for every leader to read:

Judy McReynolds, CEO ArcBest Corporation

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell

There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics by John Maxwell

 

Rick Jones, Head Football Coach Greenwood High School

The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Coaching by the Book by Randy Allen

 

Steve Clark, Entrepreneur

Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen

What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars by Jim Paul and Brendan Moynihan

A Grief Observed by CS Lewis

Oct 292014

Five Moments a Pastor Looks for at a Wedding

Whenever I watch a football game, I see if a play fails or succeeds. Is the pass caught? Does the run pick up yards? Does the defense pressure the quarterback? I look for outcomes.

But a coach sees something differently. After watching daily practices, scripting the plays, and spending hours watching film, a coach can see little things before a play ever happens which determines whether or not it will have success.

As a coach is to plays, I am to weddings.

Having performed a good number of weddings, I can see little things which other people overlook. I know the look on the couple’s face whenever I accidentally hit on a sore topic during the wedding sermon. I hear the hesitation during the vows or can feel the tension during the ring exchange.

As someone who cares about couples and wants them to succeed, I can’t help but notice little moments during a wedding ceremony which may predict the couple’s potential for success. I would never say anything to the couple. In no way are these moments scientific, but sadly, they are often good predictors of what will happen.

I’ve already written about what to watch for at a reception—it’s the wedding cake. How a couple feeds one another the wedding cake is the most predictable way I can predict divorce on the wedding day. (See: How I Predict Divorce Based on the Wedding Cake)

But there are five moments which take place during the wedding which get my attention. Since the wedding predicts the marriage, minor moments during the wedding ceremony can reveal major problems within the marriage. I would never say anything to a couple unless asked, but I watch and I remember. As the years pass I see if my perception becomes reality.

Here are the five moments in a wedding ceremony that a pastor watches most closely:

1. The First Look. This may be my favorite moment of a wedding. It’s not unusual for me to whisper, “This is a moment you will never forget” to the groom as I stand the crowd and the bride makes her appearance. While most couples forgo the tradition of not seeing one another before a wedding, this is still a powerful moment for a couple truly in love. I ignore the bride in these moments and focus on the groom. If every concern disappears as his bride comes into the room, I know the couple has a good chance at success. If, however, the groom is more concerned with the crowd than his bride or is completely untouched by the moving moment, I worry about their relationship.

2. Giving Away of the Bride. With young couples, nearly every wedding begins with the same line, “This is the moment of which little girls dream and Daddy’s dread.” The giving of the bride can be the most touching moment of a wedding because it is often one of the first times a woman sees her father cry. Without a word being spoken, much can be interpreted in body language and facial expressions in this moment. Does the father respect his soon-to-be son-in-law? Does the groom understand the difficulty of giving away a daughter? Is there a deep sense of pride in the moment? With backs turned, the crowd cannot see much during the giving of the bride, but the pastor can see it all. (See: Why We Should Still Give Away the Bride)

3. Repeated Vows. It is often overlooked as a cute moment of a wedding when a young couple stumbles over a section of their repeated vows. Sometimes they aren’t listening, sometimes they get distracted, but sometimes they sense what is being asked of them. I often have couples repeat, “(name) in giving you this ring I receive you as my husband/wife. As your husband/wife my promise to God, my promise to your family, and my promise to you is to: love you, care for you, listen to you, learn from, and be one with you. For as long as God allows me to live.” It’s funny how often a groom stumbles at the line “to listen to you.” The stutter, smile, and sometimes have to have the word repeated. It’s not uncommon for a bride to struggle to say, “to learn from you.” Sometimes its just coincidence, but sometimes it is a sense of superiority. Listen to the vows and watch the couple’s faces closely. Much can be learned.

4. The Kiss. Without question, the kiss at a wedding is one of the top five oddest moments of the pastorate. At no other point in life is someone so close to a couple as they show affection toward one another. The next time you kiss your spouse, hold your hand up about head high and a few feet from your face and notice how odd it is to kiss with another object in the vicinity of your lips. Now realize your hand symbolizes your pastor’s face. It’s a strange moment, yet the kiss reveals much. It is easy to sense a difference between passionate love between two people and selfish desire. The kiss should be a joyous embrace without any sense of tension, force, or power. (See: On George Straight, a First Kiss, and Seminary Women)

5. The Signing of the License. In most weddings, the last time I see the couple on their wedding day is during the first few pictures before the reception. It’s during this moment that I sign the marriage license and take the obligatory “pastor and couple” wedding photo which I have never seen hanging in anyone’s house. During this moment the stress of the wedding is over and the couple should be transitioning to the joy of the reception and honeymoon. In good couples, the overwhelming feeling is relief, joy, and gratitude. But for a few couples, the pictures are all business. If there is no sense of happiness in the moments following a wedding, what are the chances that happiness will be there in the years to come.

A person should never use these five events to tell a couple whether or not their marriage will last or not. Many things go into a successful marriage and even if a couple gets all five of these wrong, they can can enjoy success. (See: Always Attend the Wedding)

However, if you are ever bored at a wedding, watch these five moments and see what you notice. Chances are there is far more going on than the average person realizes.

Oct 282014

Expect More, Get More from Teenagers

Your teenagers will not be perfect. Most parents understand this. There are a few who are deceived into thinking they have given birth to the only exception to this rule. Living in denial, they believe their child can do no wrong despite all the evidences to the contrary.

Every child will make mistakes. And when they do, they should have parents who love them, care for them, and are willing to walk through the darkest moments with them. No matter what choices a child makes, they deserve their parent’s love (not their approval for specific decisions, but their loving support through good and bad choices). (See: How to Respond to Others When They Make Bad Choices)

While some parents still struggle to see the true nature of their children regarding their mistakes, there is a growing trend for parents to underestimate their teenager’s ability to make wise choices.

(To watch the full sermon, click Here)

Some parents believe it is inevitable that their children will make foolish decisions. Confusing an inability to be perfect with a certainty of being foolish, parents lower their expectations of their children. Sadly, teenagers almost always fulfill the lowered expectations of their parents.

As a pastor, it is fascinating to me to hear one parent say, “Well, you know kids these days, they are all going to (fill in the blank with whatever bad behavior that comes to mind).” But I know many kids who never do the things which some parents assume are inevitable.

It’s not inevitable that a teenager will:

  • get drunk
  • try drugs
  • make bad grades
  • get arrested
  • engage in pre-marital sex

It is only inevitable if a parent believes it is inevitable and parents in a way that the child understands this assumption. (See: How Parents Influence Their Children)

While any of the circumstances are possible, no matter the type of parenting a teenager receives, to believe these outcomes are inevitable is a tremendous devaluing of a teenager’s ability. 

To assume complete foolishness is to announce to our children that they either have little control over their lives or lack the cognitive ability to make wise choices.

I believe in our kids more than this.

Every kid will make mistakes. I have no doubt about it. And there is nothing on the list above that can’t be learned from and overcome. Many people have these stories in their backgrounds, and they have gone on to live very productive lives. However, to assume these poor decisions is to shackle our kids in a way that is very difficult to overcome. (See: Five Rules for Every Teenager)

Not every High School student is getting drunk every Friday night. Not every student is sexting or crossing sexual boundaries with their girlfriend. Not every kid is smoking pot or experimenting with drugs.

While no kid will be perfect, many kids are navigating their teenagers years with a tremendous amount of wisdom and insight. They are growing into competent adults without any of the baggage of dramatically poor decision-making in their formative years. They are experiencing healthier relationships, a more developed self-esteem, and finding an easier path to a meaningful life because they aren’t having to dig out of a hole of poor decisions.

It’s not everyone’s story, but it is the story of many people. (See: Three Things to Do When Parenting Goes Wrong)

If you a parent who assumes your child will consistently make bad choices, consider this: what if you are wrong? What if your child has the capability of choosing wisely, but you are sending them the message they cannot. How will that influence them? How will they feel to know the person who loves them the most doesn’t believe in them?

It’s tragic. And sadly in today’s culture it’s prevalent. Too many parents hold too low of a view of their teenagers, and their teenagers are meeting those expectations.

I’m not advocating for believing our students can be perfect. They can’t. I do not believe we need to set standards which cannot be met.

But we should set high standards. We should model good decision making for our kids and let them know our expectations that they will make wise choices as well.

Whenever they make bad choices, we should explain that everyone makes bad choices, but we should also let them experience the consequences of those choices. (See: A Parenting Lesson from Jesus)

When they fail to meet our expectations, we should walk beside them, but we should not lower our standards.

Parents should be such realists that we are never surprised by the choices of our children, but we should be optimistic enough to expect wise choices and to be disappointed when our children do not meet those standards.

As a pastor, I know a lot of good kids. And while a few of them are probably putting on an act, many of them are wiser than their parents. They make better choices and live better lives because of those choices.

I believe the next generation has tremendous possibility; I wish more parents believed the same.

Oct 272014

Every Great Leader Loves to Learn

Every great leader I’ve ever met has one thing in common. They differ in backgrounds, experiences, skills, giftedness, personality types, field of study, and every other area imaginable. Leaders come in all different shapes and sizes. Some lead Fortune 500 companies and others only have a single line on their resume which reads “Stay-at-Home Mom.”

But every great leader shares one common trait—they want to know more about leadership.

I’ve never met a truly effective know-it-all leader.

They don’t exist. (See: You Control What Matters Most)

Know-it-all people exist, but they are never good at leadership.

Their self-evaluation of perfection keeps them from ever serving others in a way which makes them effective.

Great leaders know they don’t know it all. And because they don’t know it all, they are always looking to learn from others.

Soon after graduate school, I found myself teaching a group of men of various ages. From long-time retired to early in their career, these men gathered every Wednesday learning to learn how to be better husbands, fathers, leaders, and men. I didn’t start the class, but for a semester I was asked to teach it. (See: What No One Ever Tells You About Being a Leader)

I was extremely intimidated. How would I teach a group of men who were all older than me on issues which confront men?

The material was good; I had no doubt it could influence the learners. My fear was my credibility. How could I teach in a credible way.

One Wednesday after class, I was speaking to a friend about my uncomfortableness and he said, “Kevin, the only one in that class uncomfortable with your age is you. The rest of us just want to learn. We don’t care how old the teacher is as long as the material is useful to our lives.”

That day my friend told me not just the perspective of a good man, but the perspective of a great leader.

Great leaders think differently than most people.JBU_Billboard_Leadership_orig

Most people only learn from “experts.” They have to believe the other person is much more knowledgeable in every area of life in order to learn from them. Like a fourth-grader who assumes he is smarter than every person in the grade below him, most people believe they can only learn from a few known experts.

Most people only learn from others in their same field. It is a rare person who is able to see parallels in various fields and can gain information from other areas of study. The average person can only see lessons which directly apply to their concern. (See: 7 Leadership Lessons from Gus Malzahn)

Most people only learn at limited times. The average person doesn’t read a book after college much less a book a month or a book a week. They only study when there is a specific piece of information they need to learn.

Contrast this way of thinking with how great leaders think.

Great leaders can learn from anyone. While they might gain more from other great leaders, they have the ability to learn from anyone. True leaders can take the beliefs, ideas, insights, and example from other people and gain insight into their own situations. Whether someone is good or bad, they can make a great leader better. (See: 8 Leadership Lessons Ella Taught Me in her First 8 Years)

Great leaders intentionally learn across fields of study. They know some of the greatest learning opportunities come from people in other area of expertise. Sometimes, by looking in a different field, a leader can focus less on the details and more on the big picture.

Great leaders are always learning. There is never a moment in which they are not learning. While an average person only learns when they recognize an area where knowledge is needed, a great leader is learning skills before they even know if it will be needed. They are always learning new ideas and skills knowing that knowledge is never wasted. Whatever can be learned today will be used tomorrow.

Leaders are as diverse and unique as the world in which we live. There are very few things which all great leaders have in common. But the awareness that they need to learn and an engagement in the learning process is universally true for every great leader.

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.

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