Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Manipulation 101


As I watch the elections, and go about my life, I am finding more and more manipulative behavior, and, sadly, I am seeing more and more supposedly very intelligent people falling for it.

So I asked myself, how do we combat this?

But let’s back up.

What do I mean by manipulative behavior?

Well, I mentioned the elections… and, on both sides, the most frequently used manipulations include tearing down a straw man- saying the candidate did, or believes, or supports, or is supported by something they do not. Now there is always a grain of truth in the straw man argument that allows people to say ‘they do so believe that way’ but it is not a whole truth, or a full representation of what the person believes. Then the media trashes the person running by making fun of what they supposedly stand for, taking sound bites or nuggets of information out of context that seemingly proves their point.

The other common logical fallacy that is prevalent today is taking things to an illogical extreme. This candidate said this therefore they must believe, or they have implied this horrible thing. If emotions were less high, every sensible person should be saying- but that is not what they meant. But, since we are whipped into an emotional frenzy we are now outraged that someone would ever say, support etc something so awful. Elections are usually pretty evenly split between the two parties- do you really believe that half of the country would back someone as awful as they are portrayed? Chances are slim and it is likely that the news sources you choose are playing on your emotions- But, do not listen to the other side’s news either, for they are doing the same thing, only since you do not like their candidate you will likely see the fault in their reporting more than you notice it in your own.

On another notes, I am also seeing this behavior on a local level. A few years ago I was part of a committee that was supposedly an important committee. We met, and seemed to make decisions; except we never actually made a decision and no one seemed to notice. We never voted. (Though I am sure the meeting notes reflected a vote… this is why approving the minutes and other parliamentary procedures are important- but we didn’t need to be formal.) Here’s what actually happened. We would meet. The group moderator, after someone made a point contrary to what he had decided would say, ‘let’s hear from the other side.’ He would end the discussion after someone from the side he agreed with spoke and then he would say something to the effect that it looks like the consensus is for whatever the last person was for (his side). Then he would move on. Since the last person who spoke affirmed what he wanted it did seem like that was the majority opinion and we were all happy to have been heard. He was very nice and understanding to those who thought differently and made everyone feel affirmed- but they were not going to overturn his agenda….

Another meeting I went to did vote, but before the vote they presented three detailed explanations for one side of the issue, and then presented responses as to why the opposition was wrong. (This was supposedly a balanced discussion.) They used a lot of emotional language that made it sound like we would be bad people to vote any other way than the position that was being presented in the positive (another common ploy). The vote was almost unanimous when the year before it was a highly contentious issue that failed. Either everyone went home and rethought the issue or their ploy worked.

The other thing I see is cooking the numbers and making them look different than they actually are. For example, in another meeting, we had one person show up from a certain population. Instead of saying only one person showed, they ran stats and said that a certain percentage of the population showed, which made it sound better than one. Not a lie, but it assumes that we are not going to do the math and realize that the percentage means one person showed up. Again, not a lie, but also not as truthful as one would like. This is where all that high school math comes in handy.

So what should we do?

We need to be teaching common logical fallacies, common manipulation techniques and statistics in a way people understand and remember. There are many books to do this from, and some historical examples of books that led to bad behavior that we should examine as to why people bought into these beliefs and how we can avoid doing so in the future. Logic is power. Mob mentality causes people to do things they would not otherwise do because their emotions rule. Right now we are being taken advantage of, and, even if you agree with the aim of the manipulation, it is still wrong. Let’s try to do better.

How can we do better. First and foremost we can stop reposting emotional, name-calling, illogical articles. If we post only content based on well-reasoned arguments and facts we will drive the media to want to create content that is less emotionally driven and more factual. Where you find such content I am not entirely sure. What I do know is that much of what hear people say is fair today is often what is leaning to their way of thinking… so be careful.

How freaky would it be to see two candidates actually debate the plusses and minuses of real plans, and concede points, agree occasionally and come up with something almost everyone could agree on (because it makes sense and takes into account most people’s needs and concerns)?! That level of maturity would be nice…

meme by funny 

Rules vs Priorities

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We live in a world that likes rules. We have ‘zero tolerance’ for fighting in school (one of my pet-peeves because the child being bullied is usually the one caught and punished the worst…), etc. But is this the best way to live?

God does not live by ‘rules.’

As we see in the Bible there are always times when God made exceptions. For a BIG exceptions see when God did not punish the women for prostitution as it was kind of the men’s fault in Hosea 4:14….

So then how do we live?

By the Holy Spirit!

But when in doubt, a list of priorities helps.

So ask yourself what is your first priority in any situation.

When dealing with your children it may be a good heart attitude. If your child fails a test because they spent their study time trying to convince a friend not to do something horrible and to do the right thing (and this is not a pattern of excuses used for not studying) then maybe we let this one go.

When dealing with your spouse, the priority is to strengthen your marriage. So when they do not load the dishwasher to your specifications or they do not wash your favorite shirt for when you wanted it, maybe we let this go and understand that they may have been working on another priority even you would agree should take precedence.

Rules are not bad, but they need to be flexible.

Too often we hold onto the rules as ‘right’ and forget why they were there to begin with.

For example, how many poems and wall-hangings have you seen reminding you that a clean house is not as important as time spent with your children? There is a reason for this. The older generation, who in the past liked to cross stitch etc was trying to impart wisdom to the younger generation. Sure, a clean house is nice, and to some level necessary, but it needs to take a back seat to being an involved parent who actually knows their kid. Children grow up so fast (trust me on this one!) that it would be a shame to not be the most important influence in their lives. When you obey the rules blindly you often prioritize things that truly don’t matter as much, such as house-keeping and work and lose the opportunity to bond with your child…

Don’t let your children grow up to resent you for not being there.

Don’t let your spouse distance her/himself because all of your rules are hard to deal with.

Be there for the people you love and make sure your priorities, not your rules, determine what you do next.

Making a list of your priorities and putting on a fridge or mirror is sometimes a good way to start.


Typically I do not get offended easily. I believe it is a much better way to live to assume there is no underlying evil reason for what was said and that sometimes people do not say things exactly the way they sounded.

I hate it when I am wrong….

But this Olympics has me miffed.

Simone Biles is awesome. She deserves coverage that celebrates her accomplishments. Instead we hear things like….

“The people she calls Mom and Dad…”

“You know those are not her real parents…”

“She was an unwanted child, yet God had other plans…”


Simone, like may other adopted children, probably has some insecurities surrounding the fact that she was adopted but THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO EXPLORE THEM!

Further, adopted children are VERY wanted by those who adopted them! (And many times their birthparents wanted them too, they just have other issues that prevent them being very good parents.) If you have ever watched a family waiting to adopted you will realize that these families want these children very, very much- in some cases much more than some birth parents who are surprised by the good news… Adopted children should never have to question whether, or not they are loved and wanted because the process of adopting is difficult and only a very odd person would go through it without being fully committed. Unfortunately many adopted children do have fears that they are less loved, and we should be sensitive to that.

Adoptive parents are also REAL PARENTS! Biology aside, they do everything any other parent does and many times are incredibly committed to their children (as seen here by the training and encouragement Simone has had). By implying that adoptive parents are not ‘real’ parents you undermine the security of an adopted child. Let’s not do that!

The biggest issue however is when Christians believe they are writing stories of God’s redemption (and Christians do this to my patients who have certain disabilities as well) which imply that the person is less than. Even though the point of the story is that God can use anyone, the underlying theme is that the person is somehow ‘less.’ The disabled population calls this ‘disability porn’ (Goggle it) and they hate it. It is condescending and shows that you have taken no time to actually get to know anyone in their situation, yet you are willing to use them to make yourself feel good… The Bible shows that God can indeed use anyone, but the anyones in the Bible that need to overcome are sinners….

So, let’s try to focus on what is right and good and ask ourselves if we were Simone, what would we want people to say right now.

How about- Great job! That was AWESOME! Thanks for all the hard work and your amazing representation of our country!

You get the idea…

You Think Wrong


The other day I was reminiscing with someone (I have forgotten whom.. sorry) and I recounted a story about the Amish community taking down a barn for us in exchange for the trusses. The person I was speaking with informed me that I did not get the better end of this deal, as trusses are worth a lot of money. A while later I pondered that thought, as I know the Amish we interacted with would be deeply, deeply offended if anyone thought they would cheat another human being. (Some Amish may be different, but our friends would be offended.)

So I thought about the situation, and about what the Amish we knew would say. While I cannot be sure, one phrase came to mind… Their answer, “You think wrong.”

So, how do we ‘think wrong?’

We forget that life is not all about money. That things only have the worth we assign to them and that value is really arbitrary.

In my world, I had a decrepit barn that was dangerous and in need of taking down. If we had done it ourselves, it would have taken much of our time (much more than the Amish took since this is not where our skills lie) and we could have potentially hurt ourselves (as I said, we were not skilled in this area). Further, we would have buried and burned the trusses. We would not have taken the time and care to salvage them, and did not know their worth. We also wanted the job done right and well. (The Amish have a reputation for doing this.) Further, we liked the idea of our trusses eventually being a part of an Amish barn and we liked the Amish.

This is the intangible. The sense of community, the sense of good will and peace you get from working and trading with people you like and respect. Too many times I have made money, but from situations that have left me frustrated and stressed. Money is not the only factor one should consider in life. While one needs money to live (sort of- the Amish do well with less….), one must also consider other things. It is better to end the day feeling good, satisfied with how you lived, then to go to bed with a few extra dollars in your pocket.

The Amish community had a need, and we had a need. We helped each other out and enjoyed our interactions. What better way to spend a day?

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Let’s be fair- we weren’t there and we don’t know enough to make an informed decision. End of story. Let the people who were there deal with the situation and stop being an arm-chair quarterback/ parent.

But… (and this wouldn’t be a blog post unless there was a ‘but…’)

Here is what we do know:

  1. Somehow a young child got into a zoo enclosure. This is dangerous and should be close to impossible. The zoo should be investigated and the protection against small, impulsive children ever doing this again should be increased- for the safety of the children and the animals.
  2. Millions of young children visit the zoo and never get into the enclosures. Do even great parents sometimes lose track of their children at times-yes. Do even well-behaved little ones sometimes do things that are mind-boggling stupid- yes. But, (and here’s that but again) usually they do not, which is why this is big news. The fact that the child was not well supervised at the time, and the fact that the child did something a child of his age should know not to do are red flags. This could be a day that would never happen again in the life of this family, or it could be a sign of neglect. Child protective services must look into it. If it is an aberration, then the family has nothing to worry about, albeit any visit from child-protective services is a hassle. BUT, if the child is not being taught to avoid danger, and is poorly supervised, he could be playing in traffic, jumping out a two-story window, or engaging in other behavior that is even less forgiving than jumping over a large wall and meeting a 400 lb animal- and that should be prevented from happening.
  3. There were people around when this happened. Eye-witnesses say they thought a woman close to the boy was his mother and that she was going to stop him… and then the woman turned and asked whose child is this and it was too late. When I was raising kids, most mothers would step in if a child was not behaving properly, especially if the child might be in danger- and most mothers would thank us for doing so, because we realized, despite the popular myth, that we do not have eyes in the backs of our heads. Today we are so afraid of upsetting others that we hesitate to act. This hesitation on the part of the on-lookers made an uncomfortable situation a deadly one. (Deadly for the animal, potentially deadly for the child.) We need to stop worrying so much about other people’s feelings and start doing what is right.
  4. We also need to stop being so quick to judge. Before all the facts were in, people who had no clue who this mother was and what really happened were already judging the situation. Some were telling people ‘everyone loses track of their children at times’ and others were condemning the mom for being the worst parent in the world. The truth is- you don’t know. Others decided based on the little bit of video that was released that the animal should not have been killed. Again, only an eye-witness truly knows how roughly the child was being dragged and only someone familiar with the animal could gage what he might do next. The right people made the call. It was a tough decision, and one they are probably not happy about having made. Let’s get off their backs. They likely feel bad enough about what they had to do already. (Remarkably, no one seems to be thinking about the feelings of the people who had to make this tough decision… But then again, as a society we seem to have a list of people who’s feelings do not count, and people doing tough jobs to protect others seem to be at the top of that list. Another rant, for another day.)
  5. And while we all understand why it is bad to call a good mother who made an understandable mistake bad, do we really understand why the ‘everyone loses track of their child’ tact is just as bad? When we make excuses for bad behavior, we do not give anyone an incentive to fix the behavior. Instead they feel justified and the problem remains. While it is horrible to compound the misery a good mother would naturally feel on what has to be a horrible day, it is just as bad for the child to let a negligent mother off the hook by letting her believe everyone is really just like her. Some things need to be fixed. This may, or may not, be a wake-up call for this family. Making excuses for them without knowing their situation is not ‘helping’ either. We have an epidemic of child neglect in this country- just ask a teacher. (We also have helicopter parents etc who also make teacher’s lives miserable, but that is another story.) Here we have a chance to say, ‘Hey, this is what can happen if you do not watch your child and/or teach him not to do things like climb over fences etc.’ While this mother may have done everything she could, not watching your child and not teaching them to obey does increase the chances of these things occurring and we must be honest about that if we want to prevent it.

Let’s stop judging everyone (on both sides of the equation) and start thinking about the consequences of our own actions. Let’s start doing what’s right….




Jewish tradition teaches that we must attempt to reconcile with a person 3 times. And, the person who is being asked to forgive must struggle within themselves to forgive us. If, after 3 times that person cannot forgive then the process is over and the person seeking reconciliation may stop trying. The person who cannot forgive is written off as a ‘cruel person’ and life goes on.

This is not what Jesus says.

Jesus says we must forgive 7 time 70 times.

If the person is truly seeking forgiveness (not mere lip service while doing whatever they want on the side- Proverbs tells us to avoid them while they are still like that), then we must continue to try to work on the relationship.

It will be hard- hence the need to keep forgiving. The past will come back to mind- and we must forgive again. There will be stumbles, and we must forgive. BUT, if the person is trying to reconcile and is truly repentant, the process is to go on, and on, and on….

Relationships are important in God’s world.

BUT, they need to be good ones.

The unrepentant who are angry, the purposely foolish, the selfish, the lazy are still to face consequences and be avoided. You are not a doormat needing to be unnecessarily hurt.

But these consequences are not meant to be cruel, but to cause a life change so that repentance is possible.

Everything is about restoring relationships to a healthy status.

Examine your broken relationships and ask:

Is the person repentant?

Are they trying to change?

If they are- help them!

If they are not, look to scripture. Find the problem in Proverbs and avoid the person if necessary. Sometimes we enable people to stay as they are because they are getting what they want from us, which is sometimes a free, no consequence, punching bag to let out their frustrations on.

Don’t be the punching bag, but don’t be the cruel person who will not reconcile with a person trying to do better either.

When confused, ask a wise- been there, done that, type person who has no emotional involvement in the situation for help.

Who not to ask for help?

People who are emotionally involved in the situation (or a similar situation).

Why: They have their own baggage, which will cloud their judgment. It is difficult to help someone forgive, when you are struggling to forgive. It is also difficult to tell someone to stay strong and avoid a cruel person, when you, yourself are enabling them. So, if you are contemplating divorce, find people who have struggled and overcome, not those who are in the same boat. Misery loves company, but it is a placebo and it does not do us any good in the end.

People who have never faced a similar situation.

Sometimes we encounter people who have families so perfect it makes you want to barf. These people have likely never encountered the type of people you are dealing with. Though sometimes they have dealt with these problems and have overcome your situation so it is good to do some research because this is exactly who you need to ask!

So who do you ask?

Someone who can be objective who knows something about what you are going through. Fortunately (unfortunately?) our world is so messed us these people are not hard to find…

Seven Types of Pharisees

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The Talmud defines seven types of Pharisees. *

  1. The ‘Shoulder’ Pharisee

This type of Pharisee carries all of his ‘good’ deeds on his shoulder so all can see (and it is assumed praise) him.

Make sure when you do good it is not for the praise, but because it is the right thing to do.

  1. The ‘Wait a Moment’ Pharisee

This type of Pharisee does not attend to the needs of the people who are right in front of him because he needs to go off and do good deeds for others.

This would be the pastor who cares for his flock, but ignores his family. Or the parent who always has to do something for work, the church or friends while their children are begging for attention.

  1. The ‘Bruised’ Pharisee

This Pharisee runs into a wall while trying not to look at a woman.

This is a person who takes the commands in the Bible too far and does stupid things in order to overly obey God’s laws. We see this person when they refuse to meet with a woman in a normal work situation when she has done nothing inappropriate to warrant this behavior towards her.

  1. The ‘Reckoning’ Pharisee

This type of Pharisee commits a sin, then performs a good deed to make up for it. He believes he can sin as long as he does something good to balance the scales.

This is the husband who is mean to his wife and then thinks that buying her something makes it all better. This is the wife who is mean to her husband and then thinks that letting him sleep with her makes it all right.

  1. The ‘Pestle’ Pharisee

This type of Pharisee’s head is bowed in false humility. He is always asking what his duty is, so that he may do it as if he has already done everything else.

This is the person who believes they do nothing wrong. They will say things like, ‘If you tell me what you want, I will do it’ as if it is your fault they are not living up to your expectations. The unreasonableness of your expectations is implied. They are not trying to change because all the fault in the relationship is the other person’s.

  1. The Pharisee of the ‘Fear of Consequences’

This Pharisee does good because he is afraid of what would happen if he does not do it. There is no love in his actions.

This person does all of the ‘right’ things, but it is empty because he is acting out of fear. It is difficult to explain to the person what they are doing wrong, because while their actions are ‘right,’ they clearly are not enjoying any of it. The fact that they do not want to do what they do is evident.

  1. The Pharisee of Love

This is the ‘right’ kind of Pharisee to be. Their motivation is love. There are two things they love- people and God in general, and the rewards from doing what is right.

In Jewish culture loving the rewards that are inherent in doing what is right is not wrong. This Pharisee’s goal is not selfish- they are not doing things just for gain, but they do love the things God blesses them with. This is a healthy relationship with God. The prime motivation is love, and there is thanks, praise and enjoyment when God blesses them.

*adapted from Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern 1992 p. 69-70

(please pray for Dr Stern, last report was that he was in very poor health)

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