017 – Whole Relationships: Motives

Our brains are always at work making sense of people through ascribing motives.  But this ancient hack can fall short of serving it’s purpose in some major ways.  Here, I give 7 (or 8) principles that can help navigate the tricky terrain of making sense of peoples’ words and actions.

016 – Whole Relationships: Truth

Whole relationships are based on trust and truth.  But what is truth?  The truth is, objective truth can’t be separated from our personal relationships, attachment, and our very humanity.  If we want to have functional relationships, we have to stop killing truth with the games that we play, and create margin for truth to grow.

015 – Whole Relationships: Power

All relationships are power seeking power.   We often don’t realize it, since power comes in so many hidden forms, but everything we do and every interaction we have is based on this singular quest.  It is a universally human appetite that underlies every squabble and conflict under the sun.   Relationships will die if our power quest is left unchecked. There is a another more powerful force that feeds relationship: grace.

014 – How to Grow Whole Relationships: Organic

Back to Podcasting and here is episode 1 of the next series!  If you are already a subscriber, you may need to unsubscribe and resubscribe as we switched hosts.

Episode 1 abstract:

Relationships don’t just happen.  They grow.  We aren’t machines.  Ancient cultures likened us to trees and fruit — this is us.  Every relationship with a spouse, a child, a friend, a parent, or a boss — grows from something into something.   The best relationships start with nothing on but our identity.  And from that they give and give – and become something the world desperately needs.

featured image © Mike Marlowe Gallery (and maybe a tad bit of attribution to the bridge builders as well)

Every Kid Needs a Trophy

Emotionally speaking, our kids today have one of the most challenging paths to adulthood of any generation in history.

My wife, Beth, finished the Cowtown Marathon in 2010. It took every ounce of willpower and determination she had to eek out a glorious 5-hour finish time in a puddle of sweat and tears.

Today, as we were cleaning out drawers, our 5 year old found her participants medal.

      “Mommy–did you get first place?!”

After a snarky laugh, the response came– “Sometimes, buddy, you get a medal just for not quitting.”

     ________________

Some people say our kids today are entitled.  That they’re too soft.  That they need a trophy for everything.

Maybe they do.

The race they are running isn’t the same one many of us coasted through 30 or 50 years ago.

Theirs runs
up mountains of expectations,
against the winds of financial hardship and class separation,
through rains of data-driven critique,
far from home,
alone from adult interaction,
lost in a cyber-world that threatens YouTube clips any time they trip or #fail.

Their race is not for the faint of Spirit.

Every distance runner knows that the worst part of any race is the head-game.  Of course they’re sensitive. But the fact that they are still running means they’re also courageous.  They may not be making record time. But just by their not quitting, we are witnessing cause for celebration.

It isn’t easy.  Disconnection and isolation can make even a comfy Suburban life seem impossibly difficult.

So cheer your kids on today.  They need you.  Resist those grumpy voices in your head from past generations that say you’re being too soft, that you’re encouraging entitlement, that youre making them too thin-skinned.

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Trust me when I say– life in the 21st century will make them calloused enough without your help.

__________________

After 15 years of youth work, I have come to this conclusion: our kids are entitled. They are entitled to every drop of our scant praise, our scarce love and our meager encouragement to keep on running.  They are entitled because they are our kids. 

The course set for them is long and hard.  And we may just be witnessing the miracle of the human spirit with every graduation, every new class, and every next step.

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So give your kids a trophy.  Let love flow freely, and critique run dry.  And with your little morsel of praise to nudge them on, who knows what mountains they may conquer next?

Spectators

It was a Tuesday night in December, and I was in Podunk, Texas, population 226. My students were playing basketball – the lowest-level of ball you can watch that you still have to pay admission for. This was 7th grade boys B Team, in a 1A school, in the middle of corn fields. About 16 fans were there, along with some crickets.

But there’s always that one. You know. That guy.

He was three rows behind me, yelling. Our boys were getting beat something like 12-8 and it was nearing the end of the game.

“Come on boys!!! Get your head in the game!!”‘

The yells got louder.

“You boys don’t even care– come on! You’re not even trying! Get your head in the game!”

“What you boys need to do is HUSTLE!!!”

Whose voice was this? I’m too curious. I know I should resist looking, but in a moment of weakness I turn around, and I’ll never forget the sight: a 400+ lb man, hunched over with a chili dog in one hand and a Coca-Cola in the other. Snapping.

“HUSTLE!!!”

We swim in a culture of spectators and judges.

Reality TV. Fantasy Sports. Talent Competitions. Social Media.

We’ve done it so much, it has us believing we’re somehow entitled to judge anyone actually doing something.

I sat the other night watching 9 year olds on Masterchef Jr. making Lobster rolls, and by the time it was over, I caught myself nodding with the judges and mumbling, eww, yeah, he DID brown the edges a bit…

Then it smacked me — this is A NINE YEAR OLD making LOBSTER ROLLS. When I was nine, I could microwave a Jimmy Dean biscuit.

Spectator culture has so many of us terrified of doing. My kids, as a rule, won’t even attempt anything that might end up on YouTube. Too dangerous.

And we’ve done it enough ourselves, it has us believing we’re somehow entitled to judge those we watch. After all, we paid.

Friends, no matter what you do– there will always be a fat guy in the stand, eating his chili dog, and reminding you you’re not good enough at something he could never do. Telling you you’re not trying hard enough. Laughing at your mistakes. Telling you how you SHOULD have done it.

Make no mistake– critique will flow most freely and sharply from those who CAN’T or WON’T do what you’re doing. Or from those who think they are entitled because they used to do it. Back then.

You have work to do. And you’re going to have to do it amidst the noise of the spectators. This is life.

You cant escape them. You will be watched. There are far more viewers than doers.

So, paint that picture.

Write that book.

Start that business.

Ask her out.

Play ball. Even amidst the yells, the critiques, the judges, or the comment feeds. Do your thing. Take a shot. And when you miss, turn and give the big guy a wink– and go get that rebound.

Breaking Free

We’re afraid of failure.   But we’re also afraid of great success.  Because– then what?

I’m coming to realize that, generally, we’re just afraid of being judged by reality.  

In football, I was a “blocking” tight end.  Translation:  slow and nobody trusted me to catch.   Not even me.   The last game of my senior year, the coach (inadvertently?) called a 440 Flood with me in the game.  The ball was coming to me.  It sailed about 6 feet above my head.

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Whew.  Huge sigh of relief.

QB’s fault.   Crisis avoided.  I didn’t want the ball.   Too many what-ifs.   If it came to me, then what?  I either drop it — failure — or I catch it.  Then, I’d have to do something with it.

Of course we might drop it.  We all know that.  But what if we catch it? 

Its in that moment that a whole new world of what-ifs flood our reality.

This is the most frightening judgment — when we succeed and must do something with it.  Most people don’t think that far ahead.  If I can’t handle the black/white judgment of a single caught/dropped ball, how could I handle the full spectrum of judgment of deciding what I do with it when I’ve caught it?

So much easier to not know.  To leave it in limbo.  To blame the quarterback.

Many of us stay in prison for decades, because we wouldn’t know what to do on the outside.

A whole world of possibility awaits us there- outside the black and white.  Out in the open, where failure and success are falsely terrifying, because self-judgment makes everything terrifying.  The prison of ignorance is the safest place.  But its not where you were made to live.

What are you waiting for?   There’s an open door to every prison.   Time to walk out.   Jump.  Catch the ball and run — or drop it.   And don’t look back.