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

Archive for July, 2013

Why I Am Not in Favor of the Common Core

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As you know, if you have been reading my posts, we adopted three children who were already in school, but definitely not learning. We decided, after trying public, private and supplemental tutoring that home schooling worked the best for us. Why? Because individual attention, when a student is behind, trumps any other form of education. The student needs to back up and learn at their own pace, which is sometimes painfully slow.

Thanks to ‘no child left behind’ my third grade daughter, who did not know her letter sounds and was still counting beans in math, received straight As. (No kidding.) When I asked why, the teacher patted her on the head and told me that children like her (with emotional issues) needed to see those grades for their own self-esteem. Those grades did not help her ‘self-esteem.’ Even though she was doing poorly in school, she was smart enough to know her report card was a joke. Any incentive grades could have made in her learning was now gone. (And she was competitive with her brothers who received ‘real’ grades on their report cards.)

Any national standard will leave children like mine behind. The teacher will need to keep the children on pace with the curriculum and it will be a disincentive to slow down when the children are struggling, and at times whole classes struggle. A friend of mine called me frustrated because he had a class of third graders that did not have their sight-words (the, did, for, run- things you should be able to spell automatically without sounding out) memorized yet. He had to go back and teach the basics before they moved on. This meant that this class would not finish where previous classes had, but they needed the basics. To try to stay on track would have resulted in them being even further behind.

Where we live today the high school students can pass a class titled ‘Algebra,’ but since the math teacher needs to catch them up they may not learn as much as the children who were surrounded by students more motivated to learn. The problem is the children, and their parents think they learned, and succeeded in Algebra. When the child gets to college and fails in math, they will not understand why, and likely be frustrated enough to quit. Common standards will only result in more of this, not less, as schools will have to look like they are following the standard. It is better for a child to succeed at a lower level, knowing that they know what they know then to believe they have achieved and have skills when they do not.

Further, every community has its own flavor and needs. America should be diverse. One community may wish to focus on farming, since that it what they do, while another is overjoyed there is a CAD lab in their school. Let’s let us be unique. One of America’s greatest assets is her diversity.  Let’s not put anything in place to stifle this.

Common Core stands to lessen the overall knowledge of our country since everyone will have studied similar things. Someone should know Shakespeare well, while others studied Van Gogh. There should be a place where computer scientists thrive (like Silicon Valley) without the future farmers wondering why there is all of this programming stuff in their curriculum. (True farms benefit from some computing, but not the level the parents of Silicon Valley employees, or their children who have grown up thinking in C, would enjoy.) Having everyone learn a little of everything makes no one an expert in anything. Further there is bound to be some great stuff that is left out, or an agenda that begins to permeate our country that exists without critical evaluation because it was introduced at a young age and no one is taught to question it. (And everything should be questioned. I once took a course proving that Calculus exists. How many people have just taken it for granted that it does? We need a few people here and there that know why and how it works, rather than just doing it to get the answer right on the paper… but, as most successful adults can tell you, we do not need many of these people, because most of us who have taken Calculus have never used it again in our adult lives. The point: All knowledge is good, but not everyone needs the same knowledge.) Let us keep our diversity and find a different way to ensure than all children learn.

Photo by Matija Barrett

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‘Women Are Emotional’ -Biblically Debunked

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One of the fallacies perpetuated in the church is that women are emotional while men are not. While, in truth, this statement does more to deprive men from healthy emotional expression, it is also commonly used to put down and undermine women in the church. So let us look at scripture, as it pertains to emotion:

1. Women cry, men do not.

Men in scripture cry, a lot. And for many, many reasons. Being reunited with estranged relatives (Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers), for the death of loved ones (Jacob, Abraham), because people are speaking badly of him and life seems to be overwhelmingly (David), when their inheritance is lost (Esau), for the state of a nation (Jesus) and when they are in real danger or pain (Jesus, David). Weeping is not reserved for women, and there are more scriptural examples of men crying loudly about life’s injustices than we have of women doing the same.

Men Weeping In Scripture (usually loudly): Gen: 23:2, 27:38, 29:11, 33:4, 42:24, 45:2, Num. 14:1, Jdg 20:23, 1 Sam 20:41, 30:4, 2 Kings 8:11, Job 2:12, Is. 16:9, 33:7, 38:3, Jer. 9:1, Lam. 1:16, Hos. 12:4, Micah 1:8, Mal. 2:13, Mt. 26:75, Lk. 19:41, 22:62, Jn. 11:35, Acts 20:37, Rev. 5:4 (This is an abbreviated list.)

2. Women are easily deceived.

Although Eve was deceived, Adam sinned purposely and brought death into the world. Sinning on purpose is always worse than sinning because one was deceived, so it makes little sense that this is used as an argument for why men are more fit to lead. But deception in scripture is not limited to the female. Jacob, Isaac, Laban, multiple kings who believed Abraham or Isaac’s wife was their sister etc were also deceived. There are also lists for what to do when you realize you have sinned unintentionally. Being deceived is not limited to the female, nor are the majority of examples in scripture of people being deceived of women. Deception seems to be an equal opportunity problem. Perhaps this is why a man is to choose a wife who is wise and offers good counsel….

Examples of deception in the Bible: Paul Rom. 7:11, the church 2 Cor. 11:3, James 1:16, Eve 1 Tim. 2:14, Laban Gen. 31:20, Kings Gen 12:13, 26:7, Isaac Gen. 27:35

3. Women do not have the fortitude to lead.

There are many examples of women in scripture demonstrating leadership qualities and saving the day while the men were somewhat confused. Samson’s parents (Judges 13): The Lord speaks to Samson’s mother, not his father, first. When the Lord appears again, his wife takes him along to hear what He has to say. The husband then freaks out a bit, and his wife uses logic to reassure him that the Lord would not give them a prophecy then cause them to perish from being in his presence. There is also Deborah, who leads in battle when Barak is overwhelmed, the daughters who build the wall with Nehemiah while some elite men deem themselves to be too good for physical labor (Neh 3:12). Then there is the women who throws the millstone to save the city (Judges 9:53), as well as the one who has Sheba’s head over the wall (2 Sam. 20:22). The Queen of the South is also used as a witness to the wisdom of Solomon as a result of her testing (1 Kings 10:1, 2 Chron 9:1, Lk 11:31, Mt 12:42). Even Abraham was told by God to listen to his wife Sarah even though her wishes regarding Ishmael were in conflict with his (Gen. 21:12). (Sarah’s role as a parent becomes even more apparent when one realizes that Abraham had many sons, while Sarah had just the one. Gen 25:1-6) Women, good women, are typically portrayed in scripture as having wisdom, and making sound decisions that people respect and obey.

4. Women are nurturing, while men are less so.

God Himself uses feminine, nurturing adjectives to describe Himself. If Jesus Himself weeps and uses nurturing imagery to show Himself as a man who longs to gather His people to Himself, then a true man, walking in His footsteps should be able to do the same.

Paul too uses traditionally feminine imagery to describe himself and the others with him. (1 Thess 2:7 They were like nursing mothers.)

God as a nurturing mother: In labor Is. 42:14, Dt. 32:18, Suckling children Num 11:12, Is. 49: 14-15, comforts children Is 66:12-13, as a mother who births and protects Is. 46: 3-4, maternal Ps 131:2, Job 38:8, 29, Prov. 8:22-25, 1 Pet. 2:2-3, Acts 17:28, as a seamstress Neh 9:21, midwife Ps 22:9-10, 71:6, Is 66:9, as a mother bear robbed of her cubs Hos. 13:8, and a hen gathering her chicks Mt. 23:37

For more Biblical references to God exhibiting  traditionally feminine characteristics go to: http://clubs.calvin.edu/chimes/970418/o1041897.htm

5. A woman’s role is to teach other women and children.

There are more admonitions for men to teach their children than there are for women to do the same (though there are enough examples to prove that both are to instruct their offspring) and God states that on the new earth He will teach the children himself, indicating that teaching the children is the most important job there is (Is. 54:13). The Queen of Sheba tests a man, Solomon’s, wisdom, Priscilla co-teaches Apollo with her husband, Phoebe delivers the letter to the Romans and Julia is an apostle. The women are also the first to be charged with the message, ‘He is Risen.’ Women throughout scripture do more than work with children. They are a vital part of Jesus’ ministry, supporting the men financially (Lk 8:3). Women also run vineyards, work as shepherds, build cities, lead wars and make brave, quick decisions that lead to the defeat of the enemy (Judges 5:26). They also serve as leaders, prophets and have jobs at the Tent of Meeting (which seem to disappear after Eli’s sons rape them, not the women’s fault.) Women are more than capable of emotionally handling much more in life, and there are women in scripture for them to look up to as they do.

Further Jesus gathers the children to Himself, even though the disciples tell them to go away. Jesus, a single man, loves and is comfortable with kids. He also allows them to be present when He teaches (something not done during this time in history). Paul also has children he is close to who pray for him (Acts 21:5).

6. Men are stoic.

The psalms contain some of the best examples of worship and praise as well as examples of crying out loudly and emotionally to the Lord. And ironically, they were written by men, and many by a great warrior named David. He poured out his heart and soul in everything he wrote. Strong emotions resound, yet David is a man…

7. Women are better at relationships than men.

Many women do excel at relationships, but men in scripture are not lacking in this department. Isaac is caught caressing his wife in public, David and Jonathan are often used as an example of true friendship and the greatest love song ever written, The Song of Solomon, was written by a man. Men have relationship skills and, if allowed, may excel in this area as well.

8. Men are protective, while women are nurturing.

Except the Bible describes women as the protectors as well. It is the mama bear, robbed of her cubs who is fierce (Hosea 13:8) and God describing Himself as a mother who rescues you. (Is 46. 3-4) While men do feel a need to protect their young, it is not limited to the masculine.

Joke: A comedian once said, ‘Women traditionally have had no interest in auto-racing, but if you strapped a baby needing to be rescued to the pace car, no man in the world would be able catch up.’ Women too are protective.

9. Women are weak.

While men tend to possess more physical strength (though this differs on a case by case basis, and women tend to survive harsh conditions better so there is a trade off) the type of weakness attributed to women is often not a physical, but a psychological weakness. Again, referring to scripture, there seems to be more cases of men falling in the area of moral fortitude than women, especially when it comes to the female. Lust takes down more men in scripture than their female counterparts (though we do have Gomer…). It is therefore the male, not the female, who has much to learn in this area. But that is the point. We are to learn. We are to mature and overcome. Scripture is not about staying weak, but about becoming a mature, stable, capable human being. And this admonition to emotional maturity is not limited to the male.

So, men, as well as women, are to be fully emotionally equipped. But those emotions are to be handled maturely, and there are examples of mature men and women who showed both wisdom and self-control throughout scripture. To say that ‘women are emotional’ is to not address her need to mature out of petty things. To say that men are not emotional is to deprive a man of his right to express what he feels. Neither is good. Emotions, when handled appropriately, are a God-given gift that every member of the Trinity also possesses. To deny or belittle their place in the human experience is to be less than the image-bearer of God, and to deny that we are to love Him with all of our strength, mind, heart and soul. (Luke 10:27) Emotional maturity is therefore the goal for all Christians, male and female.

On Opera, Shakespeare and Classical Music

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

Perhaps it’s because I was a Navy brat and a geek, but somehow I missed the memo that there were things I was not to enjoy. So I went, and, like many people from centuries long ago, I laughed and loved the entertainment. Then I grew up, and listened to the excuses people gave not to go, not to try styles of music and fun that have stood the test of time, and in some cases the test of money. Then I met a man. Little did I know that he was not the enthusiast I was when he bought me season tickets to the symphony… but he married me and now he is stuck!

And he has realized something many people do not. Shakespeare and opera are low-brow entertainment. That’s right, low-brow. Much of what is done on stage is like Family Guy set to music or jazzed up in Old English (which was a lot more understandable back then). And the bigger irony, much of our popular entertainment consists of remakes of these classics! Pretty Woman is a modern remake of La Traviata (the opera he takes her to in the movie). The Lion King is Shakespeare’s Hamlet and She’s the Man is The Twelfth Night. There are many, many more, but you get the point. The stories are still entertaining, and the problems they deal with are still problems we can understand today.

So why don’t more people go? Besides the bad press there is a bit of a language barrier, true, but a good production solves that (and there are always subtitles at the opera). And if anything, the added level of difficulty serves to improve your reading comprehension. And the topics addressed make us talk- about how women are treated, even today (yes, men still classify some women as ‘hoes’ and treat them with disdain), about how dysfunctional family dynamics lead to tragedies, including death (typically through suicide and/or drug overdose), about how people have not changed much over the years, and about how we have. And many opera companies and theaters have family or student discounts, as they want to encourage a new generation to love, and support, what they do. So check one out. It may be more fun than you thought it would be, but just remember, like the movies of today, some are PG and some are well…. if your children understand you will be having a discussion on other life events as well today.

And as for classical music, there is so much of it, and in so much variety, that to say you don’t like any of it is to say you have never tried it. And since it has been hiding in the background of your favorite cartoons, TV shows and movies for years, (George Lucas hired the London Symphony to play the music to Star Wars…), you probably do enjoy many classical, and neo-classical (my term) pieces, you were just not aware of it. So enjoy, and broaden your horizons. Why? If for no other reason than to start a conversation- a conversation that is still necessary about how people are to be treated and about how stupid some of the things that we as a society still do. So while Family Guy does much to satirize and bring these topics to light, you look foolish trying to base an intellectual conversation off of something you saw on TV last night, while discussing the plight of the female, through the lens of Taming of the Shrew, or the injustices in politics through Julius Caesar, just sounds so much more credible. (And I am fairly sure Seth MacFarlane has studied both. Don’t be less educated than Seth…)

(Some important points: All the characters in Shakespeare’s plays were played by men, so a few, rare companies use male actors for any given part. (Imagining Juliet being played by a man does increase the hilarity!) And, in opera, eunuchs were called castrati and parts were written for them in a higher range. Women are often used for these parts since we no longer castrate young men to preserve their youthful voices, making it impossible for today’s males to hit the higher notes. And, by the way, a big pet peeve of mine, Romeo and Juliet is not a love story! Romeo is in love with Rosalind at the beginning of the play, and then sees Juliet and his affections quickly shift. Shakespeare is making fun of teen love, not telling us to emulate it…)

Hijacking the Bible

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Somewhere along the way the church, our church of which we are all part of the body, allowed scripture to be ‘hijacked.’ No longer was it wisdom for a way to live, but instead, in many congregations, it became a set of rules to bash people over the heads with. And many of the rules are so twisted they no longer make scriptural sense. Let me give you a sense of what I am referring to.

The Slippery Slope:
Today many will warn you to stay far away from people committing sinful behavior or you will surely fall. (This argument amuses successful people who have done much better in life than those who are issuing this warning without ever falling into the sins these people say their associations will surely lead to.) This is also not scriptural. Let’s use alcohol as an example. (Though you could also use some of the current arguments about men working too closely with women.) Jesus drank wine, and spoke to and ate with sinners. There are even times the Bible tells us we may drink (which are typically conveniently left out of the slippery slope argument) . There were also drunkards who existed during Biblical times, so their existence is not a call for abstinence. While we are not to tempt those who have issues in this area, nor are we to put others in danger by driving after we have had something to drink, complete prohibition is not Biblical, nor is it a sound argument. What prohibition leads to is a separation of Christian from non-Christian that more resembles the rules of the Pharisees than it does the behavior of our Savior. But people continue to use this argument to keep Christians from witnessing in bars, on the streets and in other places where people are obviously in need and could use a loving Savior, as well as a loving relationship with a caring human being.
What is a sound is that we are to live joyfully, and help those who are falling. Unless we have a weakness in the area they are failing in, we are to get close. We are to help, not avoid the person in trouble. We are to be like a brother and help them out of whatever sin is destroying their lives (which may mean that at times we give up our rights in order to not tempt their weakness, as Paul gave up meat). And we are to continue helping as long as they keep repenting. Sure, there are times the Bible tells you to avoid someone, but these times are when they are rebellious and stubborn in their sin. When they want help, as messy as it may be, we are there for them.
Real life: Our church has a women’s group that goes to the strip clubs. The women bring presents and get to know the employees. At first it was weird, but now the staff loves them as much as the women love the staff and lives are being changed. No good Christian woman has been tempted to get on a pole, and the men of the church have an added reason for not showing up; their wife’s friends might be there!

Avoid the Appearance of Evil:
Surely we are not to pretend we are doing wrong in order to appease the crowd and avoid confrontation, but today this phrase is commonly used to mean a bit more than that. People who commonly use this phrase seemingly forget that Jesus was accused of being a drunkard, because, unlike John the Baptist, He drank alcohol, and He explained to the crowd that there was no pleasing them. If He abstained like John they would accuse Him of having a demon, if He did not abstain, they accuse Him of being a sinner. (Mt. 11:18-19) Most of the time, when people are told to avoid the appearance of evil, this is choice they have: Either they are not to fit in with common culture, and alienate the sinner who is seeking Christ, or they risk being called a sinner by those in the church. Does this mean you must drink or engage in other things that become vices when done in excess? No. John the Baptist was clearly correct in not drinking because that was the life God called him to live, but it is not everyone’s call, and we must be sensitive to that truth.

There are No Grey Areas:
There are many, many grey areas discussed in scripture. There are times when something is right to do, and times when it is clearly wrong. Here are a few examples:
David and his men were given the bread of presence, which is reserved for the priests alone to eat and they did not sin. (Mk. 2:25-26)
Aaron’s sons were smote for not following God’s commands regarding the incense at the Tabernacle, yet Aaron’s other sons were shown mercy when they did not obey the rules regarding the meat. Why? Because one set of brothers was rebellious while the others were trying to be humble. Motives matter. (Lev. 10:1-2, 16-20)
God does not punish the women when they become prostitutes because the culture of the time has pushed them into it. (Hosea 4:14)
Samuel is instructed by God to not tell the whole truth about his trip to Bethlehem. (1 Sam 16:2-3) Rahab and the midwives who save the Hebrew babies are also praised and rewarded for their lies. (It seems the scriptural admonitions about lying are do not do it unless someone is trying to kill someone and then you may mislead them.)

No Foul Language or Name Calling:
The Bible is full of not-so-nice language. Why do we not see it? Because most translations clean it up to conform with today’s Christian Correct standards. Here are a few examples:
In Philippians 3:8 what Paul considers ‘garbage’ or ‘rubbish’ should actually be translated as ‘excrement.’
The ‘filthy rags’ in Isaiah 64:6 are used menstrual rags.
God will smear people’s faces with ‘dung’ in Malachi 2:3 for what they have done.
Jesus and others call the legalists of the time ‘white-washed tombs,’ ‘broods of vipers (demons),’ and told them that their true father was the devil (John 8:44). I’m sure they enjoyed that….
So while we are to avoid being crude for the sake of crudeness or merely to injure another, it does seem that using strong language is appropriate at some times in scripture.

The Rules Are The Rules:
Isaiah 28:9-10 ” “Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that [fn]; a little here, a little there.”
Mature Christians are to rely on wisdom and understanding, not strict rules that say do this/ don’t do that. Further, the weak are those who need extra rules and restrictions. So while those who are mature are to avoid doing things that are permissible in order to not cause the weak to stumble, it is the weak who need the rules who are the less mature, indicating they are not to be the ones in charge. (1 Cor. 8)

Men and Women Must Maintain a Proper Distance:
In the New Testament Jesus had female followers who supported His ministry and whom He called disciples. (Mt. 12:49, Acts 9:36) He ate at their houses and allowed a woman to dry His feet with her hair (a very inappropriate thing to do at the time). He also spoke to women in public (also extremely risqué behavior for a man). Paul had many close co-workers who were female, and John wrote a very personal letter to a woman in 2 John. Prophets also stayed in widows (no men in the homes) houses, some of whom were young enough to have dependent children living with them.
The scriptural admonitions are not to sleep with the women, and if you are tempted, to maintain a distance because you are weak. But only the weak need these rules. In society today doctors, police and firemen deal with naked women as part of their job, and we expect them to be appropriate. Men can obviously obtain a level of maturity necessary to do this, and it is sad that many in our churches teach that they can’t.

Women Cannot Lead:
The issues with many churches current views on women are numerous, but let us examine a few of the whopping lies that are out there:
Women cannot be in charge of men, yet Deborah was in charge of Israel, Samson’s mother and Rebekah were given prophecy from God even though their godly husbands were around (and Samson’s father wanted to learn more. Judges 13) Abraham is told to listen to Sarah regarding what to do with Ishmael even though Sarah’s wishes are in conflict with his. (Gen 21:12) Women supported Jesus’ ministry financially (Lk 8:3), and were the first to proclaim that He is risen.
Women are also not perfectly suited to housework according to scripture. The Proverbs 31 woman has servants for that and works outside the home, even to the point of managing a vineyard, which we can assume has males working which she must supervise. She is a wealthy woman in her own right and she is to be praised. Sheerah too is credited with being a working woman, building at least three cities that stood for many, many years. (1 Chron. 7:24) Women helped rebuild the wall during Nehemiah’s time (when the elite men would not)(Neh. 3:12), were assigned jobs at the Tent of Meeting (Ex 38:8, 1 Sam 2:22), and many were shepherdesses (not a safe, or dainty profession).
Men too get the shaft in these teachings when they are told they are not nurturing and are to be less emotional. (Have you seen how many times men cry in scripture! ) Instead what we see in scripture is that men are to be highly involved in the rearing of their children, and that even God chooses female imagery to describe Himself.(Is. 66:13, Mt. 23:37) The line between what is male and what is female is not as finely drawn as we are sometimes led to believe, cheating the man out of activities that build a strong relationship with His children. (Further, the teaching of children is something God will do when the earth is renewed, making it the most important job in the church! Is. 54:13)

We Are the Moral Police of the World:
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 tells us that we are not to judge those outside the church. Why? Because they are not followers of Christ and therefore we should expect them to sin! Instead our focus should be on cleaning up the problems within the church, and probably not the ones you are thinking of. Among those we are not to give the Christian name to are: the sexually immoral- with an emphasis in other places on those who do not care for their families (1 Tim. 5:8), the greedy, the slanderer (so many Christians spend so much time putting down other people for how bad they are this would clean out the church!), the unrepentant alcoholic and the swindler (those who use Christ to gain money? Living off the church in ways that are not quite right…). This is not to say that we do not try to help these people before we stop calling them ‘brother in Christ,’ (Matthew 18: 15-17- the three strike law- is still in effect.) but we do not allow our church to become a cloister for mean people who do not treat others well. The church, like Israel, is to be a beacon to those who are lost showing them that there is a better way to live, and it involves a relationship with a God who loves us. How can we do that if our relationships with others in the church suck?
Instead many churches focus on the sins of the world. Who cares what the world is doing? What matters scripturally is what we are doing. Was there any class of sinner Christ refused to forgive? (No.) Then our mission outside the church is to show people Christ’s love in the same non-judgmental way He did. He ate with sinners, conversed with prostitutes etc. (But today we put down those who try to preach in bars and do not lovingly accept the immodestly dressed woman into our midst when she shows up on Sunday.) What He did not do is call the overly religious, legalistic people of His time His followers. Today too many in the church spend much of their time complaining about how bad the sinners are, and not enough time figuring out how to love them and help them into a relationship where a powerful Holy Spirit can do more for them than rude remark or disdainful look ever will. So WWJD? Judgmental attitudes and nasty labels were for the religious who thought they were better than everyone else; let’s follow His example.

But we keep putting legalists in charge (where they admittedly like to be) even though the Bible tells us not to…
The mature in the church, the ones to be called ‘elders’ and have positions, are to be respected in the community. They are not to be the weak, who need extra rules, but those who have shown wisdom (including mercy) in doing justice. These are not to be new believers, yet many times that is exactly who we put in charge. Like the Jewish people in Jesus’ day, the legalists are the ones we look up to and revere. This is not to be so. Let us do a better job, putting people who have gained wisdom are respect into position, and let us stop beating each other up with what people suppose is the Word, but truly is not.

Dealing With Dysfunction

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Everyone has one in their lives- someone who just will not behave, but life circumstances force you to be together. Here are some ideas for dealing with dysfunction, that will help you maintain your own sanity.

First let’s define dysfunction: The dysfunction we are referring to here is limited to a person who repeatedly belittles you, provokes you and/or flies off the handle without provocation. They misinterpret what was said and done, sometimes on purpose, for reasons yet to be discovered. Ideally, they would do well with counseling, but they are not at a point where they will receive it. Interactions with the person are affecting your behavior and your mental health.

1. Be honest with yourself.
Too often we tell ourselves to just forget it, that we don’t know why we let them get to us, that we really should be able to handle things better etc. The fact is that words do hurt. If David, the mighty warrior, and Job, the mature, successful businessman (before the catastrophe) had cause to complain about the words of others, so will you. Words hurt, and some people use words in ways that wound. It is healthier in the long run to deal with reality rather than to deny it. The person you are having trouble with says things that are abusive and like any other form of abuse it really does affect you. So how will this help? By admitting you do hurt, (or become upset, angered etc in response to them) you can now take steps to prevent or lessen their effect on your life.

2. Set boundaries.
Since words do hurt you are going to require strategies for minimizing the damage. Some suggestions are: When dealing with a potentially explosive person, schedule positive things before and after the time you must meet with them. Set time limits on your meetings by arranging other appointments you need to go to, and do not allow yourself to become trapped or under the dysfunctional person’s authority. If you need to arrange for a hotel room instead of staying in their home do so. Will they like the boundaries? No, that is the problem with people who are dysfunctional, they do not respect the rights of others, but they are going to be upset with something sometime anyways, so it might as well be something they can vent about while you are away. Being a trapped audience to their insanity is not helping either one of you.

3. Be clear.
Do not allow yourself to be dragged into their neurosis. Dysfunctional people love to go off topic, and typically stretch the truth while doing so. The topic will typically include why you are such a bad person, and involve many accusations that have only a limited amount of truth (enough so the people around them can ‘see their point’ and be sucked in as well). Do not engage in this. When it become obvious that the person is not looking for a solution, but instead has some other hurtful agenda, steer the conversation back to whatever originally needed to be discussed, make a clear decision and then end the encounter. Likely you were trying to be nice and tried to allow them to have a say in something, but they have proven incapable of having that discussion. Since they have proven themselves to be incapable the ball is now in your court, and the decision is yours to make. Make it and be done.

4. Realize that anger begets anger.
When a person has become irrational and is now spurting accusations that have nothing to do with the topic at hand there is a very good chance you will begin to do the same. Nothing will be accomplished if you too sink to this level. There are a few ways of dealing with this. Since the person has clearly lost it, you must now consider what your relationship to the person is to determine how you wish to proceed. If it is a close relationship, you may want to get close. Though the person is obviously not handling life well, and is intent on hurting you at this moment, what they may really be saying is, ‘I don’t believe you love me.’ If this is the case, shut up and hug them. If this is not the case, and the person is behaves like this at random with everyone, disengage and leave as soon as possible. You, like everyone else, have limits. Do not allow yourself to get caught up in the drama and do, or say, something you will later regret. Disengage before this happens. (This does not mean you get to walk out on every argument you aren’t enjoying. This advice is only for dealing with people who routinely lose control and who cannot be reasoned with. For all other situations, toughing it out and actually solving the problem yields the best results.)

5. Do not allow the angry person to control your life.
Too often we become obsessed with the fact that someone is upset with us. We allow the argument to consume our thoughts, and ruminate on the many ways we are going to solve it. When it becomes obvious that this is a pattern, and not a solvable situation, stop. There are other people in your life who are not unreasonable, and who need and deserve your attention. Stop fixating on the person who is being unreasonable (You have tried and they have proven that they need more help than you can give.) and start intentionally putting your efforts into people who will receive what you have to offer. Too often families suffer because mom or dad is caught up in a drama with an adult relative who simply will not behave. Your spouse and children deserve more than this. Try to settle the dispute, and when it becomes obvious it will not be settled in the near future, disengage. You will need to deal with the problem at times, but it should not be the focus of your life.

So here it is in review:

When dealing with an unreasonable person:

1. Admit that it is tough, and plan for it by surrounding yourself with uplifting people or activities before and after you encounter the person known for tearing you down. Tough emotional situations are times you want to look and feel your best, and then allow yourself time to de-stress before you take your angst and transfer it inappropriately to someone you who does not deserve it.

2. Set time limits on every meeting with the dysfunctional person.

3. Do not get caught up in senseless arguments, but return to the topic at hand. It will be tempting to defend yourself; don’t. Name-calling behavior is never based on reality and you will only reinforce their feeling of being right to abuse you when you stoop to acting as they do.

4. End the argument by loving or leaving. Sometimes the argument is a cry for affirmation, other times it is a hostile life pattern. Decide which it is, then act. If the hug doesn’t work, or is inappropriate, exit and if necessary, try again when they have calmed down.

5. Stop thinking about it. (Easier said than done.) This one takes practice. You must remind yourself that there are more important things in life and focus on what is currently in front of you. People who know how to behave should not lose out because of those who don’t.

I hope this helps. The most freeing thing in my life has been the realization that some people are not going to be nice and there is nothing I can do about it. I try to help, but when the abuse continues, there is not much left for me to do. It is not my fault they misbehave (I did not raise them.) and there is not much I can do about it. But I can limit my exposure so that I too do not become an emotional train wreck as a result of the interaction. Words do hurt, and I am as vulnerable as the next person to emotional abuse. The difference between someone who handles these situations well and those who don’t is often the boundaries they allow themselves to set. Spending 24/7 ruminating on an abusive situation will not allow you to look at the situation with clarity and function as a sane, rational human being. Some things are not for you to solve, and some solutions come when the person realizes people will no longer stand for their behavior.

Photo by Matija Barrett

Reviewing the Declaration of Independence in Light of Today’s Government

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

I have really tried not to be political on this blog. Why? Because debating current events tends to lead to time wasting controversies I do not wish to engage in. But, in going through the Declaration in order to write my piece on tyranny in relationships I noticed something- in many ways our government is doing exactly the same types of things that King George was called out for. Am I blaming any one politician? No. These things have been going on for some time now, and the only fault the person currently in office has is that they too did not recognize this and make it go away. (We can debate how much they have made it better or worse on another day.) So let’s look at what our government is currently up to that made our forefathers mad.

1. He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good… He has endevoured to prevent the population of these United States; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners…

Our federal government can’t seem to make up its mind regarding immigration, so it does nothing. And when the states attempt to do something, it stops their actions. Immigration has been an issue since the founding of our country. Our forefathers wanted to increase the population. Today we wish to regulate it and ensure those coming in are ‘safe.’ The problem with King George was that he would not make a reasonable law that would enable proper immigration. We have the same problem today.

2. He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

Have you noticed how many departments and agencies now exist? All of them are funded through taxpayers’ dollars, and all of them are in charge of regulating our lives. Some of them are good and necessary. Others are redundant and would be better if done on the state level, where local concerns may be taken into consideration. It may be time to say ‘too much’ and work to simplify government, in much the same way we do when our lives become busy and over-extended.

3. He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

The Department of Homeland Security, the NSA and the TSA are examples of agencies whose purpose seems to be policing the citizenry. This is not how our founders expected free men to live. Further, some of our police departments, and social service agencies seem to have overstepped their bounds and gone from ‘serve and protect’ to harass and assume. As frustrating as it may be, all citizens are to be treated with respect and are assumed to be innocent until proven innocent in a court of law.

4. He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power.

Our military is now under the jurisdiction of the federal government (no more is it a coordination of state militias), and when it is sent to an area, it does not seem to answer to the local officials in charge. Our founders wanted protection from an over-reaching government. Any policy that places the federal government in supreme control over everything does not comply with what our founders intended.

5. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution…

Have you noticed how many treaties and executive agreements have been made? And many of them were made without the consent of congress. (Reminder, according to our constitution a treaty trumps any state law. (Article VI) And an executive agreement between our president and another country is being treated as if it carries the same weight as a treaty that actually made it through congress.) This is not the method our founders envisioned, and these short-cuts bring us closer to a dictatorship. It is time to back away from that edge and re-instate a little more restraint when it comes to the power of one man, our president (any president).

6. For quartering large bodies of troops among us.

What the heck is the DHS doing with all that ammo and riot control machinery? Why is the IRS training with rifles? Is this really the job of the federal government, to police our local streets? We have a military and we have police, what exactly are these other agencies doing? These tactics are not what one would expect if their only purpose was to weed out terrorists. Let’s put the responsibility of keeping order in America back in the hands of local people who know their community and can make judgments based on that knowledge.

7. For protecting them, by a mock trial…

When was the last time a congressional review resulted in anyone losing their job, no matter how grievous the error? Today the name of the game seems to be protect those who are appointed, not ensure the safety and rights of those they supposedly serve (the taxpayer).

8. For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world.

Some trade agreements are good, but today we seem to be using trade as a means of obtaining what we want politically from other countries. This was not what our founders wanted. They wanted the freedom to trade with whomever they wished, free from government interference whenever possible.

9. For imposing taxes on us without our consent.

Pork and other deals that sneak into bills meant for other purposes reek of this. We may have wanted whatever the bill was for, but we did not want all of the ‘extras’ it came with.

10. And waging war against us…

Cutting funding to things that will ‘hurt’ in order to manipulate the people into supporting funding for the things you favor is not the way government is to work. Like King George it seems that many of our elected officials wage a passive-aggressive war on the American people in order to find support for the ideology they believe in. This is not the way the system was designed to work.

11. He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny… totally unworthy of a civilized nation.

When was the last time the American people fully understood why we were involved in a military action? Tyranny is when the government decides for itself, without the consent of the people, to do what it wants. Shouldn’t something as large as sending our troops, our sons and daughters (my son), oversees into combat require a bit more of an explanation than what we are receiving? And it seems some of our methods are suspect. On one hand we hamper our troops effectiveness with PC rules that have no place in actual combat, and on the other hand we use drones that seemingly do more harm than we should have intended. It’s time to revamp and rethink how we do war.

12. He has excited domestic insurrections among us…

You cannot mention the president’s name today without stirring emotions and potentially starting an argument. This was true for G.W. as well. Our government, it’s policies and the statements of our elected officials do more to enrage and encourage emotion than they do to encourage serious debate. We really need to get back to the issues and stop acting like we are on a reality talk show when dealing with the problems we face as a nation. And we need to hold those accountable who seek to stir up emotions rather than engage in honest debate.

This problem is ours. We the people need to take responsibility for what we have created. We need to encourage cuts and accountability. We need to take back responsibility for our local affairs. We need to encourage responsible dialogue and not jump emotionally into the fray without realizing that we have no idea what we are actually supporting. And we need to hold the media accountable. They are to report in an unbiased manner (i.e. They may give their opinion, but they may not leave out the facts that may lead us to disagree.), and they are not to seek to merely stir emotions and get people upset over things they know nothing about. It’s time to take back our country and run it in a way that makes sense, before we, as a nation, become a reality show that is too sad and dysfunctional to watch.

Be Unique, Be Very Unique!

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God created us as unique individuals, everyone different from the other. Yet we live in a world that pressures us to be the same. How freeing would it be to actually be true to who you are? To admit that you are great at some things, and allow yourself the freedom to shine? To also admit that you are not good at other things, and allow yourself to shore up those areas by delegating those tasks to others who do shine? How great would it be to be you?

So here’s the challenge:
For one week do nothing different, just record every little thing you do. Include everything, from shaving, to putting on make-up, to doing the dishes and walking the dog. Everything.
During this week also be formulating a list of things you believe to be important. They may include one-on-one time with your children, romance with your spouse, working on your manuscript etc. At the end of the week rank these things in their order of importance.

And buy some multi-colored highlighters. (Or crayons, your kids probably have some.)

When the week is done create categories. They may be ‘work,’ ‘exercise,’ ‘eating,’ ‘chores,’ ‘sleep,’ whatever you want to call them. Highlight each category in a different color. Notice what takes up most of your time.

Next, go through the list and mark the activities you enjoy with one symbol, and the activities you do not enjoy with another. If your days are full of activities you do not enjoy spend some time figuring out how to decrease the time you spend on them. (This may involve you doing something you enjoy that makes the money you use to hire someone else to do the thing you do not enjoy. One writer I know became a writer merely to continue to afford her cleaning lady.) So you may hire someone to do things, cut them out completely or find other ways to minimize the time you spend on them. If you must do them, find ways to make them fun. Combine them with your favorite music, a TV show you like in the background, do them with friends, whatever works. Or find a fun alternative. You may find exercise boring, but necessary, so put on your thinking cap, something like going dancing may burn just as many calories and score you a date night with your spouse. A family sports activity may also be just the thing.

Now look at the list of things that are important to you. Notice how much time you actually spend on them. If it is not as much time as you would like, re-arrange your life to make sure the things you value actually get done.

Then re-look at your record. Next to every single activity note the reason you do what you do. Also note whether, or not the amount of time you spend doing it seems reasonable. For instance, next to ‘brush teeth’ you may write, ‘So my teeth don’t fall out and my breath does not offend.’ Since the two minutes you spend on this seems reasonable, move on. What you may find is that some activities take up way too much of your time, time that could be spent doing other things. Streamline these activities. Other activities make no sense. You do them because you are in the habit of doing them, and their return on investment is minimal. Cut these things out of your life. Just remember, ‘Because I enjoy it’ is a valid reason. These activities, when they do not affect your productivity, contribute to your mental health. Don’t cut too many of these out, and make sure some occur every day.

Now look at your appearance. What does it say about you? Does it fit your lifestyle? Does it incorporate things you like? Is it functional? Some of us like to dress up. If you do then spending hours on your appearance is part of you feeling good about yourself. Others of us value our sleep. Easy to manage haircuts and morning routines make more sense. Make a list of little things that make you smile. It may be Star Trek memorabilia or a certain style of jewelry. Begin to incorporate the things you like into your life. It doesn’t have to be tacky. A nice pair of Star Trek cufflinks, a geode as a necklace, these are little things that make you smile yet don’t distract others who may not have the same tastes.

Finally, take a look at how you communicate. Many of us are so afraid of offending others we rarely express our opinions, or ask for our needs to be met. This is caustic to your mental health. While you always want to be tactful, and aware of other’s feelings, no one can adequately know you or meet your needs unless you express them. Keeping everything bottled up inside and hoping someone will notice you need help only leads to explosive situations and poor self esteem. Will everyone like what you have to say? No, that’s not the way the world works. But those who are mature will understand and respect your opinion if you express it with the love and respect you would expect in return.

It is also okay to set boundaries. There are those who, in inappropriate ways, take too much of your time and emotional energy. Feel free to set boundaries; it is a healthy things to do. Will they like it? Probably not, and you may have to have a very frank conversation with them, but if they are truly inappropriate, this may help them to deal more positively with others in the future and benefit them as well. (They probably have more important things they should be doing too.)

With your new ‘free-time’ (This exercise should free up some time.) allow yourself some time to explore new things. Many of us have not tried anything outside our cultural norm. Stop in a store you would not normally shop in but were always curious about. Check out entertainment, like the opera, country line dancing, martial arts lessons, pottery classes etc you have never tried before and discover for yourself whether, or not, it is for you. Start to fill your day with the things that are important and incorporate the things you truly enjoy into your schedule.

Being yourself saves you time and emotional energy. It allows you to prioritize the things that are important, and delegate the things that are not. No human being will be good at everything. Unless it is something you alone must do, stop trying to master the things you hate, and are not good at, and begin to invest in and excel at the things you love.

Photo by Matija Barrett

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