Archive for the ‘Accountability’ Category

A turning point in life

Posted: June 2, 2020 in Accountability, Anger

As of today, I have had it.  After days of watching, listening and most importantly trying to help our teens and young adults navigate this reality here in the US, I hit a point that I have had it, and for me that takes a LOT.

I am so fed up with the leadership at the national level of our country and the complicity and moral cowardice of all the senators and representatives who have no backbone to stand up to completely inappropriate behavior by our president that I am going to do everything I can to insure that a those who cannot display leadership against negativity, posturing and other form of self promotion are gone.  So for me that begins with a very large set of steps away from the Republican Party as it stands today.

Perhaps this is what it was like back in the 50’s and 60’s when a similar shift happened and citizens found themselves seeing a political party they sided with in the vast majority of cases contort and pervert itself into such a disgusting form that they could no longer take it.  That is literally the best way to voice what I feel for our president, his appointees and the congressional members who stand behind and continue to excuse larger and larger forms of behavior that should appeal any person who claims to have empathy for other human beings.

I have voiced my feelings and my decision to my local senator, the Republican Party at large and will communicate to others as well as it makes sense.  I do not feel it will matter to either organization the voice of one voter, but this is how our system is meant to work and simply vanishing into the void without and explanation does not allow my feedback to join the likely piles of others who feel similarly.

I am disgusted by the “law order president” persona that Trump is now donning in an attempt to fool voters in his latest wolf in sheep’s clothing move.  The contrast between empathetic and compassionate mayors and governors against our callous and self promoting president could not be more stark.  The leader we need in that position is not the leader we have by a long shot and I am so done giving this any more thought and hope.  No other Republicans are going to call him to account or work to the better angels.  They will endorse him needing a path cleared for a publicity stunt holding up a Bible in front of a church he does not attend.  He later is condemned by the bishop of that denomination for his actions and the callous nature of them and still his weak sheep in Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley and others totter behind in lock step chanting “Yes Mr. President” instead of showing any backbone at all and more importantly showing any care for fellow Americans.  They instead adopt the party like, the Trump Party, that the media is politicizing things.   No sirs, your president is politicizing things that should not be politicized.  He is taking this opportunity to deflect from his lack of leadership by trying to pretend this is how serious thinking Americans want him to lead.

I am calling his bluff and the camel’s back has been broken by this last straw.  We have a bunch of toadies following, who I believe will go down in history as one of the worst presidents this country has ever had, easily in the Top 5 if not the Top 3, into oblivion and I am done hoping against hope that the Republican Party will find its way again.  Silence is not acceptable by congressional leaders when asked if they agree with the president.  Fear of crossing Trump should be enough of a signal to them that something is deathly wrong within the Party.  You should not fear your own president or you are working with a tyrant.

Perhaps eventually the way will be found again, but I am now going to take my energy and look for people who have the good of this country instead of the good of themselves in mind.  If they are Democrats, so be it.  If they are Independents, so be it.  If they are Socialists, so be it.  The person who has the best plan and the best character is who is the best leaders.  Trump was a character vacuum from day one.  Many people I know knew it and looked past it.  I hope they are not stupid enough to do it again.  As I hug crying teenagers in my house I see the real life impact that has as the hope is sucked out of our youth because we have a raging narcissist for a president and bunch of wimps around him who will not call a spade a spade.  Four years of this soul sucking clown leadership is enough.  Anything and everything to end this, because this country can do better.  I just pray enough people are not fooled by the charlatan misdirecting them again into “he’s not so bad” land.  He is that bad.  The question is as you going to continue to be that gullible?

Will work to get back to better topics next time.

We all have been trained in elementary school of what to do if we catch on fire:  stop, drop and roll.  Now about to enter my fifth decade of life I still remember this survival training because it is so simple, shown to be so effective, and therefore seems to stick with us.  Simple, effective solutions are the best, aren’t they?

I have been mulling over this literally for about three weeks now and have decided to share with my blog readers and hope it can help out in the world at large.

This simple concept has applications in our lives right now, and as it turns out, not just with coronavirus but with the renewed interest in dealing with police brutality most recently horrifically brought back into the spotlight with the needless death of George Floyd.  It was really this dual impact that finally got me off the fence to write this post after such a long absence from the blog.  I felt the coronavirus value was good but as it continues to expand it felt too important not to voice more publicly.

First, let me provide some details about me that may not be readily apparent from everything else on the blog.  Perhaps people have discerned this already, but as I have never explicitly, as I recall, stated these things, for this post I want to leave no doubt.  I am a middle-aged, conservative, white male who lives in the suburbs and has a job I can do from home.  I share this because I believe I will say at least one thing somewhere in the rest of this post that will go against the commonly accepted understanding of what someone like that would do or think, and therefore I hope it will add some value to what I share here because you will be able to see that I am attempting to practice what I preach.  So, let’s dive in, the water’s deep and there is a lot to cover.

The first of the three instructions we have ingrained in our collective psyche is Stop.  Stop binge watching news about either subject.  Stop constantly talking with your friends and family about it.  Stop obsessing over this or any other topic that can easily steer to the heavily negative during this time when most of us are stuck at home and have much more time on out hands than we ever have because anything we used to do in “spare” time, is not or has only recently become available again.  Even what has become available, is in a new format.  For me I like to go to the movie theater, concerts, plays, church, fairs, museums, sporting events and also tend to eat out along with those things or also separately, typically once a week at least.  For the last ten weeks, none of those things have been on the table and most of them are likely off the table for the rest of this year, if I avoid (i.e. STOP) jumping on the wishful thinking express.  I was as guilty as anyone of spending too much time thinking about what I had lost in the first few weeks, than about steering my mind to more constructive pursuits about what I could actually do and making peace with that.

One of the biggest Stops is to stop thinking that opinions are facts.  If literally any one person can view something differently than you do, that is your flare in the sky, spotlight on the obvious, that you are dealing with an opinion and not a fact.  We are all entitled to our own opinions, but none of us gets our own facts.  Facts are the same for virtually everyone.  You know that rule you also learned at some point in school that always or never on a True/False test make the question false?  This is one thing, of a very short list of things, that is an exception to that rule.  A fact is ALWAYS the same for everyone, otherwise it is not a fact.  This is a truism we seem to have lost, especially in the United States, where debates and discussions get heated almost immediately because we start tossing out our opinions thinking they are facts.

Let’s use these two issues we are living with in the US and look for facts and see how few of them there are.

Coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  It exists. Like other viruses, people can get sick from it.  It has a gene sequence that has been shared with scientists.

George Floyd.  He has died.  He was a person of color.  This happened in the Minneapolis, MN area.  This was filmed from many angles.  A police officer had his knee on his neck.  George said “I can’t breathe” multiple times.

I have tried very hard in these lists to avoid anything that could be disputed (an opinion formed about), as that would not be a fact.  Likely, you feel I have not stated other obvious “facts”.  I challenge you, as I challenge myself everyday, to really determine if much else that you believe is a fact about these issues is.  Or is it an opinion you have turned into a fact in your own mind and that now drives your views and opinions of others and your interactions with them.

Stop thinking it’s all about us.  We get told this as children all the time, but as adults we are terrible at taking our own medicine.  Stop only talking with and seeking opinions of others who are just like you and on important, complex topics like global pandemics and abuse of power, seek to understand the opposing viewpoint.  One of the most valuable skills is to truly learn how to properly debate.  The best debaters in the world always prepare for what the opposing viewpoint will likely present.  The less understood, or at least less focused on, point of a debate is that debates are about opinions and not facts.  Facts may be used, but it the debaters opinion about what those facts mean that provides the material to present and for the judges or audience to then decide where they land.  Who provided the best case?  This is where facts matter again, and words matter.   If someone tells you that “the best people” said or did something, but refuses to name those people so you can fact check them for yourself, you really have nothing but a glorified and sometimes confidently and loudly stated opinion.  Why are they the best people?  Who are they?  What did they say that makes them the best?  What qualifies them to be an authority?  More importantly what other people, what “worst people” might have similar credentials and expertise but have a compelling explanation that contradicts them?  If we are truly open to hear and learn, we may find our opinions changed or at least challenged and become more humble in our firmness, but standing firm on opinions makes it very easy for us to make poor and foolish decisions with consequences that we may not have thought about and that could take years or more to unravel.

Stop letting others think for us.  As I have watched the internet and social media become more and more a core of people’s lives, I have observed a negative impact that most people seem to not know how to educate themselves on a topic.  The patience to do the work seems to have left many of us.  We are too busy, but then we get riled up when things do not change.  Who will change them?  It is always someone else.  I have never seen a study or poll done on this but I believe there would be overwhelming belief that the citizens of the Revolutionary Era were less “educated” than citizens of today.  I challenge us to think about that.  People spent a lot of time thinking about things, and did they likely have fewer facts?  Probably, because much was not known or properly understood.  Science had not learned about viruses yet.  People felt different races of people had biological differences later proven as false opinions, but they were believed as fact, and acted upon.   However, they did not have an easy way to learn about a topic around the world, and especially in a growing republic in North America, citizens took seriously their collective good and worked together to move things forward.  Today, we spend five minutes googling something and reading two or three of the top results and being content.  Learning about something has not suddenly become easier.  Finding material about it has, but the time needed to become an expert has not.  We have become complacent with outsourcing our thinking to others because in our self-absorbed importance we do not have time for that, so we let others make our decisions for us.  Is this really what we want?  If not, stop and do the hard labor to be an educated citizen of your country and then determine what action you personally will take to impact what moves you.

The next instruction we need to heed is Drop.  Drop the pretense that because we spent a few hours reading, watching or otherwise consuming material on a given topic that we are now an expert at it.  If you are not a virologist, drop believing because you have listened to a dozen virologists, you understand coronavirus.  I have watched all 16 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, but that does not make me a surgeon.  We need to understand what we are experts in, and I like the traditional benchmark of that, which is something we have spent over 10,000 hours doing, and drop the social media fueled delusion that because we spent the weekend “studying” this, we now know everything there is to know about it and can speak with authority.  Tie this to the point about facts above.  Never die on the hill of a “fact” in a topic you are not an expert about.  Realize that what you have is an opinion on a fact and then be open to having your mind changed.

Take time to understand who is saying something worth listening to.  Some curious material related to the space of George Floyd and police brutality.  John Lewis is a civil rights hero who has a clear message you can hear in an interview on MSNBC where is advice was  “to vote as we’ve never voted before”.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, in the midst of a coronavirus briefing this weekend spent over ten minutes providing more thoughtful and calm rationale for how the power of change is in “we the people” not in the leadership who are afraid to admit they are not experts on something they learned about yesterday.  Cory Booker has an interesting idea for some legislation on a national registry of police disciplinary actions.  Listen to Donald Trump’s stance and read Barack Obama’s statement and understand that they come from two vastly different life experiences and ponder what that means in how you interpret them, and most importantly do not simply dismiss the one that does not line up with your belief system.  On coronavirus, watch what is happening outside your country and work hard to know the studies are still opinions until many, many studies get the same results, so do not be too quick to jump.  We likely need a vaccine before this is over and that could take years, so understand what that means, how real progress is going, not just best case long shots.  Listen to briefings from other leaders and see what they are doing and encourage your local leaders once you form an educated opinion rather than just grumbling that they should do more.  We all want this to end, but it will take as long as it takes and poor choices from us can make it take longer.

Drop the belief that most things are black and white and realize that most are actually infinite shades of grey.  If someone does not agree with us, that does not make us right and them wrong.  That means each of us has a different opinion.  The polarization we see in many societies is largely driven, in my opinion, by the fallacy that something can only be one thing or the other.  The inability to then civilly discuss anything means we can likely never really get to the root of complex issues to make improvements or to drive positive change because far before we get to that fertile soil we have contaminated it with the dung of animosity, sarcasm, arrogance and self-righteousness.  Being “strong” on something does not mean being willing to name call, belittle, sign an executive order or send in the military.  That’s being a coward and a dictator.  If you have to force someone to do something then maybe your idea is a poor one to begin with.  Work harder on your idea, as you are likely wrong in some degree.

The final step to save ourselves from harm is to Roll.  Roll with the punches.  Everything is not personal.  We are not required to respond to everything anyone says to us as a personal affront or attack or as something that must be processed through our filter of opinions and tested for any contamination of “otherness”.  Life is hard.  If these last few months have not been hard for you in some way and likely the hardest you have had on this earth, then bless you as you are truly special.  Those who will likely emerge better on the other side will have embraced rolling with the changes and making for themselves and those important to them the best lemonade out of the mountains of lemons.  People have gone through massive events before.  We all will have our opinion about how these events compare to others

I do not want to be tone deaf to the real barriers that poverty and racial bias throw into the mix.  Even in the world of white privilege, challenges surface.  Rolling with the punches is unpleasant or many times impossible in some situations.  It runs the risk of sounding like the argument that all people of color need to do to avoid police brutality is to listen to the police.  We have an eight minute and forty six second video of horror to show that OPINION is wrong.  Facts may come out (please remember what a fact is) that show otherwise, but at this time that is a tall order given the many angles and sources of video showing no resistance at all.  So I wanted to be certain to share that I understand that for many people this last step is much harder, but it does not mean that in whatever format that is can apply, that it is not the better option.  What those of us not in that position should try to do is help when we see that situation and drive our leaders to make it better, and if there is something we can personally do to make it better for someone to do it.  Think of the story of the kid on the beach who is throwing starfish back in the ocean so they do not drown.  When the adult points out to him that what he is doing does not matter, the child states, “It matters to this one” as he tosses it back into the sea.  Do what you can and do not hide behind the “it’s someone else’s problem” when presented with an opportunity.

I believe if we do these things, to finish getting through these tough events and making the new reality that we will be in, as well as keeping this in mind for future happenings, that we have a much better chance to get to positive outcomes faster.  Just as stop, drop and roll puts out your clothes as fast as possible if you caught on fire, so this stop, drop and roll can shed the perceived panic and metaphorical fire you may feel yourself in.  The goal is to laser focus on things that are real and that you can then think about and drive positive results with.

Conspiracies are more and more in vogue and are getting much more of a voice than they deserve because people in positions of power use their megaphone to toss them out there.  We can use stop, drop and roll to see past this and uncover the facts for ourselves or we can rely on the easy road of just listening to the loudest voices who have verified it with the best people who shall remain nameless so we cannot think for ourselves.  Most conspiracies fail basic scrutiny once you understand the number of people who must all be in agreement and not say anything for them to actually exist.  Once that number gets above five or so, the chance of one of them not telling someone is almost zero.  Conspiracies such as labs fabricating viruses and impacting the world, domestic terrorists being solely responsible for all protest, and systemic racism in police forces just become easy things to latch on to rather than figuring out what is actually happening and seeking to understand the other side and coming to the table.

As we speak with our children who are learning alongside us in these two massive events, I try to continue to teach them about the importance of being a good citizen and not simply taking action for the sake of action.  You must take the time to determine what you feel is the right action.   We never have all the facts, but be open to new facts that show you were wrong and then apologize if needed and redirect.  In these two situations some of my questions to others are:  Where do we think the virus has gone that just allows us to open up and act as if we just had a three month vacation?  How could it have been a hoax and where are all the people who “died” now living to make us think they are all dead?  Again, as a conspiracy how had no one leaked this secret island or bunker or why had no one gotten fed up of living in hiding and emerged yet to tell us April Fools?  Does it make sense to focus on the most optimistic timeline when all historical evidence on projects tells us that most likely scenario is most likely for a reason and then best to plan for?  How does property damage stop police brutality?  Have you thought about all the broader impacts to your community when you slow the ability of businesses to reopen by destroying them?  Have we worked to understand how people of color feel when asked to live in a society that does not honor the social contract they are expected to abide by and then holds them accountable for violating something that rings hollow to them?  Have do we take that understanding and make policies that make sense?  When the policies we make hamper the law enforcement professionals and we find their lives are endangered, as they claim will likely happen, are
we prepared to rethink it and continuously improve?

Finally, I think a key point, especially in a democracy, is that change is slow and deliberate, not a flash in the pan.  This is what I try to share with anyone who will listen.  The Stoneman Douglas students wanted to drive change and then here we are.  Were they wrong?  Certainly not, but I believe they wanted change to happen faster than is reasonable.  Change management is hard.  Ask any project manager.  Changing a company takes months or years.  How long does changing a country with over 300 million people?  I have heard people saying businesses have insurance and can rebuild.  OK, maybe they do.  But why should they have to?  How does destroying a business have anything to do with getting change in police policies?  I have yet to hear or meet a person who was not sickened or outraged by what they saw in the George Floyd video.  This is a great time to start the change that has been tried and failed in the past.  Again, Governor Cuomo was quite eloquent in his discussion of the timing of societal change and what it takes.  Will this be the time that takes?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  We’ve been here before.  But doing the wrong things and causing distractions will certainly not help and will likely set us back further as people return to their polar corner.  As Maya Angelou said, “Hate.  It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.”  Maybe those destroying things do not hate the police, but it is not likely they love them either, doing what they are doing.  My opinion is a small group of people are responsible and that most of those who are out are peaceful and just want to be part of a group that thinks like them.  Community is natural in situations where we feel helpless.  The new voting block is one of the largest we have and they can impact change in a way that works, but not at internet speed, and that patience is a lesson I hope that is learned.  I also hope they understand that not being registered to vote or not voting is a huge mistake as change happens through this process.  Not voting and then grumbling is akin to not plugging in your freezer and then stomping about that the ice cream melted.  It’s foolish.  Bring people along but do not try to push a rope.  Outrage is not how things change; it is simply a symptom of the understanding that a change is desired.  Hard work and perseverance get things changed.  Let’s focus on that.  That is some of the lessons I try to teach my children.

So STOP feeding our confirmation bias and seek out opposing viewpoints and truly understand them, DROP social media and internet fueled expertise and admit and be open to having new facts change your mind and diligently look for them to make sure they are not there before you dig in to an opinion, and ROLL with whatever comes and determine your next step in the next minute, the next day, the next week and the next year based on the reality of the now and not the nostalgia and the gnashing of teeth of what was.  The goal of this is to keep yourself in a position of relative calm from which to make your decisions rather than one of panic.  The world is on fire, and we are as well, but if you stop, drop and roll, I pray you have a more peaceful journey.

Proverbs 14 is a wonderful text that most Christians are familiar with.  As a book written mainly by the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, any chapter is a great trove of what it means to be wise, but chapter 14 stands out as one of the simplest ways to determine your standing in this era of quick quizzes.  You can read through Proverbs 14 like a Cosmo quiz; am I this or am I that and then add up the score at the end of the 35 verses and see on a score of 0-35 how wise (or conversely how foolish) you are.

Today I wanted to focus on two specific verses, verse 14 and verse 29 as I find myself assessing how we are doing as parents all the time using these two measures that God has so wonderfully provided.  For those not familiar with them, let me reprint them here.

Verse 14 says “The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied with his.” Verse 29 reads “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.”  I’m going to talk about each of these individually and how I feel they should impact our lives as parents.

One of the things anyone who knows me understands pretty quickly is that I love personal finance and helping others with it.  I’ve been contemplating ways to start financial coaching as a side hustle because I think my combination of financial simplicity joined with a humble Christian spirit of wanting to help can benefit a lot of people.  I’m not looking to write books or be on TV, just to help people and as a bonus maybe make a little extra money to help my family.  One of the first concepts that anyone needs to grasp as a motivation for not spending (which leads to saving, which is the goal) is compound interest.  You may have even heard the statement attributed to Albert Einstein (most likely falsely but done so nonetheless to add some weight to the importance of it) that goes something along the lines of compound interest being the most powerful force in the universe, the eighth wonder of the world.  That he who understands it, earns it and he who does not, pays it.

Again, if you are unfamiliar with the concept, compound interest is what happens when you let money just sit in some instrument that provides a return.  What happens is that you earn a little interest that first period, and then in the second period you earn interest on the whole balance including the interest you earned before and ad infinitum until some point in time.  If you make a sound investment in a stock of a great company such as GE (less great this week after its last announcements), a very small amount of money invested when the company started would be worth millions today.  And this is just over a little more than 100 years.  This is an example of the power of compounding and we can see it at work all over the place in the financial world.

I believe we can take this same principle and looking at Proverbs 14:14 as our base and, understanding that God’s promises are eternal, apply this same concept to the power of influence we have through our connections.  As with any of the statements in Proverbs 14, you can be on the wicked/foolish side or the wise/godly side.  As the Einstein quote explains, if you are a fool you pay the interest, so it can drain your savings just as quickly as it can add to it, if you make the wrong choices on where to let compound interest work in your life.  With our kids we also are making an investment by showing them how to live with what we say and do every day.  We can live for the world and it’s ephemeral, short-term “rewards” or we can live for God and His eternal purposes and rewards.  Verse 14 tells us we can be guided and satisfied by what we do in following God, or we can have our fill, reap the cost, of backsliding to the world’s way of thinking about anything.  Every “investment” we make in our children can have eternal consequences.  Every word we say, every action we model they take in and it impacts them from that day forward.  What we then have the ability to do is change what happens in the world to a greater and greater degree the more time that passes.  How our children develop and how they treat others including their children continues to ripple outward and grow and the number of connections and generations grows.  We can radiate good out into eternity by making the right investment today.  Imagine what the impact you have today will have on this world 10,000 years from now, 100,000 years from now.  It is just hard to wrap our heads around that but if we return to the financial analogy, the impact we see in just 25 or 100 years is impressive, but if we calculated that out for 10,000 years it would be mind-blowing.  This is what God offers all of us to understand in life, and as a parent I think about that a lot.  Our decisions echo in eternity.  This is why God fights for every soul to be saved, because he understands the impact the compound interest of our actions has.  What we do today does not only impact today, it effects and changes everything that happens into eternity.  Can you even begin to think about what that means?  Does the awesomeness of that weigh on you as much as it does me?  That, and nothing less, is what God has given us a chance to impact.  What will you do with that awesome power?  I try to make it impact my thinking as often as I can and it helps me understand the importance of standing for what is right, asking What Would Jesus Do, and driving in the positive direction as much as I can.  Will you let this sink in and reassess your thinking?  What verse 14 challenges us to do is realize we cannot always change our position, but we can always change our disposition.  And that is the lesson of compound interest when applied to parenting.

Moving on, let’s look at verse 29.  I’m sure we all have heard this many times but do we really get what it means? Let’s walk through a scenario we all face many times as parents.

I ask my kids to do things, such as clean up around the house.  After I asked the first time, in a few minutes I heard raised voices.  When I approached I found they were arguing about who had done the most, complaining to each other that one or the other was not pulling their weight.  I asked them kindly to stop and keep working.

After a few more minutes, I returned to find them bickering about who was going to do what.  Who would vacuum, who would pick up the socks.  I stepped in again, got them to be quiet and told them to finish the job.

Finally, the third time, I checked out the results after they said they were done.  What I saw was very lackluster and not the result I expected, and they explained they did not understand what a clean basement looks like.  At this point I lost it and yelled at them about how they never help around the house, how they make no effort, how they never listen, how they never show any respect and I stormed upstairs as they started flinging their feelings at me.

I stood there thinking two things. Why am I having this discussion?  I should just tell them what to do and if they don’t I should just bring the hammer down and remove all their privileges! but the second thought pierced me to my soul, deeper than any basement could ever be, I let my anger get the best of me and I am acting like a foolish child.

I do not remember exactly what I said when I calmed down and laid out my expectations clearly along with consequences of not being able to use the space later if it was not clean in the future to help the lesson sink in but most importantly in these time I need to understand If I am going to help these kids grow up emotionally and teach them to appropriately express their anger, than I need to grow up myself. 

God never says to not get angry but he does give us example like verse 29 and Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools” that are meant to clearly explain the consequences of improper anger.  We look and act like fools.  God never said we should not be angry, but he did warn us to not let anger turn into sin.  The easy way out is to think that losing our cool is human and natural and happens from time to time, but we are called to be better than that.  Let’s not take the easy way out, let’s help our kids learn how to behave like caring, rational adults and not like raving fools.

With a lot of kids, there is always a lot going on in our house.  It takes effort to not get angry, and we can say it is worse with more people, but those are just excuses.  God does not give us criteria for when it is OK to be a fool because we just can’t handle life.  His criteria, like him, are absolute.  Unrighteous anger is always a sin and as such we should avoid it.  Like any habit, this takes conscious effort.  It takes having a plan on how things will be addressed.  I have a plan, and even though that plan is when I feel my emotions getting the best of me to step away and regroup, I sometimes fail to execute the plan.  I need to then ask God and those I was inappropriately angry with for forgiveness.  However if we circle around to the earlier discussion, these actions have eternal compounding interest built into them.  Do I want people around me to learn that what we should be compounding is anger, or should we be compounding love?  Christ makes that answer very clear for us and we need to get better at laying the troubles we cannot handle, those that make us angry and irate like exes we cannot control, at His feet and try to emulate Christlikeness and show that we trust God.

So, can we be more like Solomon and less like ourselves?  I believe we can, but I know it will be hard.  Every sinner is on a road to improvement right up till they leave this world and then I am not sure if it continues in heaven or not.  I won’t be able to update this blog once I find out, but I do thank God for the fact that he gave us a Cosmo quiz right there in the Bible in Proverbs 14 to go down and assess ourselves and the ability to reach out to the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance to fix the warts we find.

“just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” – 2 Peter 2:1b-3 (NASB)

We have recently been talking about this section of the Bible in our Sunday school class.  Our sermon this week was about Psalm 73, that most scholars describe as contrasting the end of the wicked and the righteous.  As we left church one of the pastors commented “You guys live this every day”, and he was right, though we are certainly not alone.  For those who question my Christian faith and how I can feel so strongly about it, it is times in my life like these where what is weighing on our hearts aligns with outside support that those without faith would simply label “coincidence”.  Our current season of life is one of those times, for not only did a sermon and a Sunday school lesson align, but so did the timing of a move “Paul: Apostle of Christ” happen to hit me with questions and lessons that fit the problem at hand.  You see, what the pastor was referring to and that we continue to wrestle with in our children’s lives, are the influence of our exes from a position of authority similar to what Peter was speaking of within the church.  Parents who secretly introduce destructive heresies into the lives of our children, who lead them down a path of wickedness with seemingly little conflict (Psalm 73) and inspire in them fascination with flawed gods gone by (similar to Maritius’s unrewarded belief in “Paul”) that goes beyond just being interested in mythology.

A brief comment by my wife after the comment from the pastor kindled in me the seed for this post, for in blended families we have the added challenge of being exposed to attacks from within, from the other parent.  For some people trying to blend, those attacks also can come in their new household with disagreements between each other as they try to meld different upbringings, food choices and lifestyles.  I have heard recollections from multiple people about how things that really are not normally a part of life for an intact family because everyone in the household grew up with the same rules, traditions and experiences, can become a litany of challenges for a blended family.  This is another one of that endless stream of things that are just difficult to grasp and fully appreciate unless you have lived it or walked very closely with those who do.  It is important to formulate how you will navigate those obstacles early and often within a new blended family and I feel we’ve done a great job in that area.  I also feel in other but the worst circumstances that these are not really attacks, because in a loving couple there is not poor intent.  That’s why I will focus exclusively on the other parent.  It helps hearing from outsiders from time to time about how well all our kids appear to get along, because as with anyone, the self-doubt constantly creeps in and outside affirmation helps, especially when it comes with godly counsel.

So while we have done well to work with our helpmate within our own four walls to craft a new family dynamic, let me return to the other possible source of attack from within a blended family, that of the other parents involved.  I have mentioned before of Bert’s total lack of God in his life as well as Nan’s at best luke warm, convenient and superficial belief.  Bert tends to replace God with other mythology which created a high fascination with Greek and Roman gods, in Jan in particular, and open the door to other things like witchcraft and other pagan idolatry.  It is hard enough to guard our children’s souls against this in normal circumstances but when a parent, who is in their lives with positional authority simply from being a parent, shares what can be seductive and intriguing information, it is exponentially more difficult to combat, most often to the point where we find ourselves having to turn it over to God and trust that He can hopefully establish enough of a foothold to turn them away from falsehood.

These attacks occur on many fronts and conspire to erode our ability to influence and at times leads us to situations where it seems, and likely often is, best to withdrawal and allow the children to make up their own minds, for shortly they will all be aged out of the mandatory presence in our sphere of influence and able to decide for themselves what is right or wrong, what is fact and what is fiction.  I have this argument often with my parents where they get upset that I am not “making” Marcia, or Greg or another do the “right” thing.  I calmly (OK, many times not so calmly) repeat what it feels like I have covered dozens of times, that making someone do something is not a sustainable goal as someone who is coerced or bullied into a behavior will simply drop that behavior the moment they are free from the means of coercion or pain, a point all our children are fast approaching.  It is this ongoing onslaught of the world coupled with the exes that has led us to lay the problems at God’s feet and pray while still trying to ascertain when to get involved.

It is on this front that we find ourselves with Peter and Bobbi and that my wife has been wrestling with for months.  Peter fought so hard to embrace the false teaching of Bert that his diabetes is not really that big of a deal and therefore he could play with it and manipulate it to get what he wants in life that he endangered his health and his life by overdosing on insulin to make himself ill perhaps because he did not want to attend school and certainly because he wanted to spend more time with Bert after visitation was curtailed due to Bert’s lack of responsibility in Peter’s care.  Basic parenting skills are missing, such as actually knowing what kids are doing within his house or if they are taking medications needed, so that Peter created a poor outcome.  Further false teaching about how things were not important, doctors are all dumb and therefore their input can be ignored at will and other such drivel also contribute to Peter’s belief that our household stance of following your medication regimen and believing doctors in major medical systems is important to good health, especially with a chronic medical issue.  Fighting this never-ending battle has caused my lovely wife to have to vacillate between fighting against the noise or just letting it go and trusting God.

A similar path has been embarked on by Bobbi, where my wife finds herself as being the only adult that Bobbi might want to listen to (she has zero desire to listen to me over Bert) that is advocating for Bobbi to finally get her drivers license.  The paradigm my wife and I operate in is one similar to parents our age that assumes that children will not be able to wait until they are sixteen to get that document and be able to move about the world less dependent on someone else to get them places.  As we have been finding out for a few years now, since Bobbi is driver number four in our brood, this paradigm has shifted, as kids have less desire to take on the responsibility and see much less benefit in driving than we did.  So Bobbi is supported by a general peer group paradigm shift, a counselor who has expressed Bobbi’s input on being “terrified” and other such alarming (at least to the counselor who does not understand the Bert led teaching of exaggeration of negative feelings to alarm adults) words of driving and Bert’s support of her not driving because it lets him control her more by being the only driver she has reasonable access to (where he uses another false teaching to reinforce the fact that working at a normal job the way my wife and I do that does not allow you to be available throughout the work day to drive kids around is showing a lack of love and caring for your kids).  This led my wife to once again feel she needs to concede, as she is the only one “forcing” Bobbi to get her license and now Bobbi is alienating my wife because she feels uncared for.  Bobbi has amplified childhood feelings about being worried about others not wearing seatbelts in cars to the point she would burst into tears for fear of their safety, to now perhaps creating psychosomatic symptoms of legs that go numb when she drives because she is too terrified.  Never mind that she recently drove a total of about three hours round trip for the Easter holiday without any indication or complaint of this paralyzing numbness that she mentioned to the counselor.  We feel this again is her taking the teaching of Bert to use those people in her sphere (counselors) to get results she wants rather than having real conversations with her mom about how she feels and how to get past it like most people do.  After all, even in the new paradigm of her generation, kids are not foregoing getting their license because of numb legs that did not impact prior generations but suddenly are because of the secret design changes in car seats that only impact teenage drivers lower body blood flow but leave older drivers unimpacted.  Trying to have any sort of discussion with any of Bert’s kids that borders on the rational, preparing-them-for-responsible-adulthood kind is nearly impossible (Jan with accident and liability responsibility, Bobbi with a driver’s license or real concerns of a food allergy and Peter with his diabetes) and places us in a very unhappy situation.  We feel forced to approach these conversations with kid gloves or alienate the kids to the point of having them run head long to Bert because he supports, coddles and encourages them to be irresponsible and crafty.  Both of these approaches are less than optimal, we are forced to be half-way parents.  They have a parent, a false teacher, who models poor living and social responsibility (not conning people to live versus getting a job and making money as is socially acceptable).  He not only teaches them poorly, he lives poorly and so they see this as a normal situation.  Bert’s way appears easier to an uninformed child who cannot rationalize all the unseen impacts yet (and may never be able to if not free of Bert’s orbit long enough to learn there are better ways) and so it is easy to ridicule our “stupid” ways.  It is this type of way that basic teaching in the Bible aligns with clear lessons in everyday life to support my faith that if in doubt on how to address a topic, the Bible is the owner’s manual for life.

I do not want to imply that Nan comes off scot free in false teaching, i.e. difficult to combat, influence; she simply is not as egregious as Bert.  Nan certainly does not encourage living within a budget, thinking things through clearly to avoid unintended consequences, or teaching responsibility.  She brushes off the importance of missing lessons for Greg, of giving solid financial advice to Cindy, or helping Marcia figure out how not to live in a perpetual financial hole.  Some of this is a result of Nan just not understanding how the world works (during our divorce she once called me in a panic from the cellular carrier store on New Year’s Eve because she was convinced all cellular contracts renewed on January 1st and wanted to make sure she had her own phone for the coming year, when we would be divorced, and felt if she missed this window she’d be stuck until January 1st the next year).  Nan also does not seem to argue too vehemently against my input, as Bert does against my wife’s, but that viewpoint may just be wishful thinking on my part.  Nan is also usually aligned to, at least to what might be considered a normal degree of difference between adults, most critical issues like health care, need to get a job in life and other things that we are at odds with Bert on.

The further challenge that my wife struggles with in relation to Bert is what is the pain of the writer of Psalm 73.  How does Bert continue to live wickedly with seemingly no consequences and yet winning the hearts of his children?  Bert could not do this without the benefit of false teaching, for if he did align with society or the teachings of Jesus, then his teaching would also by definition align.  By presenting a more enticing worldview, Bert seduces his children just as the snake hypnotized Eve, but just as we learned about hypnotism, one cannot be hypnotized without at some level wanting to be hypnotized, to be convinced.  The unfair position Bert takes here is that he has the love of his children, so they are therefore already open to his influence far more than say, to mine, and then he offers a tempting and seemingly rewarding option.  After all, why take responsibly for anything when you can apologize for the impacts to others, blame other things or people, or claim ignorance?  The danger is that the kids do not understand that as one gets older the consequences get larger and they are not able to see the path they are being led down as one with a large cliff at the end labeled failure that does not have a trampoline at the end to bounce them back up on the road.  The danger now is that the kids are old enough to get a bit of Bert’s manipulation of others and not see any real consequences, so it seems like Bert might have pulled a fast one on the world.  We are not sure what to do with this.  Our advisers in our pastors, our parents, our sibling and friends have assured us that eventually Bert’s ways would catch up with him.  After all how long can it go on?  This is our Psalm 73 moment (a moment which for my wife is stretching into decades) and why our pastor said we live this every day, because we do.  But it does not make us feel better.  Because while the end of Psalm 73 says that in the end God will give Bert his, that’s all well and good for Bert.  Our concern is that he may drag his kids along with him into the fiery pit of doom and therein lies the real anguish for a divorced parent facing an attacker from the inside.

This philosophy was a short synopsis for my parenting style that I heard at one point, and recent events as I’ve watched other parents around me over the last year just made this rise to the top of things I wanted to share on this blog.

The most recent example of “preparing the road for the child” is helicopter parenting, but it existed in other forms before that in coddling etc.  Some people, my wife included, feel I’m too harsh in my goal to never have our kids come home after they finish with college, for example, but this stance is bred directly out of the desire to prepare the child for the road.  I’m having to live in the same world they if they were to come rushing home.  My preparing them to understand that one of the key tenets of not having to do that is not spending above your income they should have no reason to need this proverbial “safety net” that has become all the rage lately and for some reason seems to have brainwashed otherwise rational adults into thinking that somehow “now is different”.  It’s not.

There have always been challenges.  In the 70s when inflation was over 10% and interest rates were even higher, there was not talk of kids moving back home.  When unemployment soared during the Great Depression people were struggling and such but there has not been anything I could find of this mass movement back in with parents.  Why?  Because the parents were in the same world they were in and this shift of making it OK to prepare the road for the child was not as prevalent as it seems to be today.

If the situation existed that I am a financially astute and responsible adult and the world is in such a state that I could only survive by dipping into savings each year, then we have a rational argument for a younger adult, not having built up that savings, to be unable to make it on their own.  That however is not anywhere near the situation in the US today, contrary to media hype of the sky falling.  Preparing kids for the realities of life puts them in a much more resilient situation.  There was a recent discussion I was involved in with folks trying to figure out how much they pay for for their high school kids.  One mom was feeling guilty because her daughter wanted to do dance but every week’s competition to team went out for a fancy dinner instead of doing something like a pasta party at a parent’s house, got their hair and nails professionally done for a hundred dollars a week and a bunch of other expenses.  She was uncomfortable telling their daughter this was just not doable in their budget and she’d either have to pick another activity, forgo some of the pre and post activities the other girls did or find a way to cover those expenses herself (like a job).  Some other parents were trying to convince her of all the reasons she just needed to find a way to suck it up and go into debt for her daughter to have this high school experience.  I knew my viewpoint was in the minority so I caught up with this person later and shared my perspective and it led to a really good conversation and she was relieved to hear someone who was not just buying into the spend, spend hype because it would somehow damage out kids if we did not make this happen.  It was another example where people were just killing themselves preparing the road for the child and the wondering why they hit to the rock or the pothole in the road later on because mom and/or dad was not there to pave it over or push the rock on to the shoulder.

The learned helplessness this creates in children is often overlooked.  A slight hiccup occurs and the child cannot figure a way forward without immediately calling the parent.  Somehow then people are surprised when this behavior continues for decades after their kids are “adults”.  I feel we do a disservice to our children when we do not prepare them to be independent, autonomously functional human beings.  There are fewer and fewer guardrails in the world these days.  More institutions lack customer service on any level and unless you understand how what you are asking for is to be delivered you will struggle your entire life ending up on the short end of the stick.  Everyone would like the easy way out, but not having that grit or resilience comes with a cost that is many times not understood until the emotional and relational damage is far too great.  I’d much rather coach my kids through the bumps and bruises and have them excited when the achieve something through hard work of their own than clear the obstacles entirely and then when I’m not there they stumble and fall and are clueless why.

I may not be the most popular parent in the room, but I know that if I focus on giving them the tools that is far more valuable.  We seem to have forgotten as a society that if you give a person a fish you feed them for a day, but if you teach them to fish you feed them for a lifetime.  In the same way if you make your guide “prepare your child for the road and not the road for the child” you give them what they need to handle the eight-lane highway, the treacherous mountain road, or the unpaved cow path all on their own.  It gives them more sources of pride and gives you a lot more energy back to handle all the roads in life you have to deal with yourself.