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Why “Inner Vows” don’t work

Have you ever made an “Inner Vow”?

  • “I will never be like him”
  • “I will never cheat on my spouse”
  • “I would never do that”
  • “I will never treat my friends that way”

Typically, promises like these represent a passionate attempt to hold fast to certain values or commitments.

They also all but guarantee the opposite outcome.

Why? False security. When I make an “Inner Vow” like this, I’m actually just attempting to secure a certain outcome. When I then trust that imaginary security, I rely on it and become blind to the risk. Now let me ask you: who is in greater danger?

  • The man who vows to never be caught unawares
  • The man who knows he could

My advice: Don’t make promises to yourself or anyone else. Promises are the blustery understudy of actions. Make choices.

Us Against Them?

I’ve been solicited for my opinion on a video that has recently gone viral. Here it is:


I liked it, and I agree with its sentiments. I like the emphasis of spirituality over systemic rules. I also think the video was well done and I appreciate the artistic presentation. I very much enjoyed this video.

I do, however, hold against it that it’s tearing down a straw man. I’ve noticed this a lot lately: a lot of people attacking religion…but nothing from religion in return. I’ve never known someone to argue the other side of this argument! Where are all of the “pro-religiosity” folks that we are rallying against? I appreciate and support people wanting to revive and contribute to the systems they live in. I suppose, if we must, we can create a straw man to rally against, but I think this is just setting people up for disappointment: we’ll never triumph over our imaginary foe. In my experience, it is better to simply affirm what is good. It’s usually not necessary to point out what is wrong in order to point out what is right.

This brings up another issue: if creating an enemy is usually not helpful for the development for one’s argument, then what is it helpful for? I propose that any action, including manufacturing an enemy, is an attempt to meet a personal need. I wonder where these videographers would claim their affirmation or self-worth normally comes from?

Conflict

The relationship between conflict and friendship can be a difficult one to tackle. As I’m sure many of you have heard, friends can “agree to disagree.” This is not helpful.

The implication, and it’s an easy one to believe, is that true connection with those we love and care for requires agreement. The phrase, “agree to disagree,” suggests that, even when conflict is irresolvable, we can still agree on some higher lever and therefore be friends. Wrong.

“Let’s agree to disagree.” 
These guys are just burying things that 
need to be expressed (but in a helpful way).

Let’s just be straight here: conflict is uncomfortable. Furthermore, it strains relationships and oftentimes plants a seed that can grow into atrocious violence (e.g. The Holocaust, ethnic cleansing in Sudan, the US Civil War, and other crimes not sanctioned by governments). When I disagree with my wife, for example, the tension in the room is almost tangible (ask her if you don’t believe me)!

No, neither ignoring or glossing over the tension is ever a good idea. It won’t go away, and it usually blows up in your face later. It is better to ensure that, when conflict arrises, I can respond well. Some would call this, “keeping my side of the street clean.” If I am centered, then someone can lean on me without compromising my position. If someone is upset with me, I can take it, even give way to them – apologize, concede, bow out, etc….

Now I’m not saying that strained or broken relationships simply shouldn’t hurt. On the contrary, acknlowledging the pain, I can recieve it as such without allowing it to become a threat.

Conflict will continue to escalate if
I allow myself to feel threatened.

When I know that everything I need comes from God, then I can be selective about what I allow in. When a friend expresses gratitude, I am grateful and accept that with grace, but I’m also ok without it! When a friend criticizes or flings hateful words at me, I can allow those words to pass right through me without letting go of a genuine concern for her or him.

In a nutshell: Because I get what I need from God, I’m ok. If I’m ok, then I can then be available to others no matter their condition. Anger, happiness, despair, contempt, etc. None of it enters me unless I allow it. And I need none of it.

Sex

Check out an eye-opening BBC article on sex addiction.

One of my specialities is in sexual issues, especially addictions. My past experience with addictions has given me a lot of pain, but also deep compassion for the addict who still suffers. As with all addictions, sexual addiction is basically rooted in how we view ourselves. Oftentimes we look for a supplement to our low self-appraisal, and this is where addictions begin.

Sex is a tough issue today. At the turn of the 20th century, Sigmund Freud began what many have called the “sexual revolution.” It was a revolution, I can’t argue with that, but not all revolutions are good. Freud grew up in the Victorian era where sex was taboo. A newly married woman would often be told by her mother to “just close your eyes and think of England” while being intimate with her husband. Freud reacted with the opposite extreme. Thanks to Freud, sex is now a casual part of everyday life – “It’s no big deal.” This is no better than the shame Freud replaced. It’s time for a revolution that walks the middle line. Sex is good like Freud said, and it is sacred. Sex is sacred, special, powerful and we all know it. We need more than Freud’s liberation…

Institute for Sexual Wholeness

Assuming that sex is a God-given gift to humanity, the Institute for Sexual Wholeness has been working for a sexual revolution of its own: within the Church. But we’re not talking Freudian free-for-all, we’re talking about sacred freedom and pleasure. Take a look.

Faith and others

A friend of mine, John, recently found himself in a difficult situation where, out of love for his friend, Jill, he felt compelled to challenge her about what he thought was a poor decision. John acted out of love, but Jill felt judged. In my opinion, John still did the right and loving thing, although that friendship is most likely over now.

Not actually John and Jill. Not actually anybody really…

As is understandable, John is upset. Now in one sense this could be very good; losing a friend is a kind of death. In another sense, however, this would be very bad because it’s never right or safe to allow others’ feelings to influence us without our approval.

What I mean is this: John is having difficultly with the fact that Jill doesn’t like him anymore. Why might this be? I think John unknowingly gave Jill too much authority over his perceived worth (the “am I good or bad, and if so how much?” factor). Faith can play a significant role in a situation like this.

Before I give my opinion, I’m interested in yours. How do you think John’s faith in God might help him in his situation?

(The identities of the above characters have been kept confidential by random assignment of name and/or change of gender. Any correspondence to actual persons is purely coincidental.) 

The heart.

Today, Pastor Dennis Henderson of Sherman Bible Church spoke on the “Dullness of hearing” in Hebrews 5. This is what he says:

“…[Dullness of hearing] is the Word of God coming into your ear, moving down to your heart and arriving only to find it crowded.”

A powerful idea, really. Whatever crowds our heart, owns it. What’s crowding your heart? What occupies you? How’s that working out for you?

Check out the sermon here. Select the January 1st message.
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