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More Problems with Entitlements...
Centre or center piece?photo © 2005 Michelle Hofstrand | more info (via: Wylio)

This morning I was reading SomeGirl's Website, and she's talking up a storm about entitlements. She's been reading the book From Innocence to Entitlement: Today she posted this quotation, which I think is brilliant:

A sense of entitlement isn’t really about getting too much, it’s about giving too little.

Tomorrow is Canada Day up here in The Great White North, and of course my American friends will celebrate July 4 in a few short days as well. So I thought it might be worth reflecting on the nature of our countries and what this quote means.

I'm going to get a little American here, so please forgive me my fellow Canadians, but I think it applies to us as well. John Adams, the second President, wrote frequently to his wife Abigail about his vision for the United States. And one thing he said was that the nation couldn't survive if it were not, fundamentally, a Christian nation.

And I agree. Our democracies work not just because they enshrine our rights, but also because with our freedom comes responsibility. We feel a sense of community because we are free to pursue it, and the government doesn't interfere. And so you saw people caring for their neighbours, and creating a better life for their kids, and working hard.

But when these things go--when we stop concentrating on what we can do to make life better, and start waiting for others to make our lives better--the main problem, as the quotation says, is not that we are expecting people to do things for us. It's that we have stopped doing things altogether.

Do you know what makes our hospital work? Canada has socialized medicine, and it's a big fat mess in my particular neck of the woods. But the reason that our hospital continues to function is that doctors and nurses go out of their way to do double shifts sometimes, to fill in that call schedule, to call around and make sure someone has a follow-up appointment. They don't just do the minimum; if they did, it would fall apart. They do more, and so the hospital continues to limp along.

If my husband stopped filling in the gaps in the call schedule (he's a pediatrician), obstetrics would close. The Emergency Room would be in dire straits. And so my husband keeps plugging along.

Our society works because people go above and beyond. They care about others. They feel a sense of responsibility. When that sense goes--when people stop going above and beyond--our society falls apart.

The Founding Fathers got that. The society only works when people work hard and care for each other.

But we aren't doing that anymore. There is a rush to the bottom, a rush to do the minimum. The new god in our society isn't money; it's leisure. We're all trying to do the least possible. And that is why the entitlement society has hurt us so much; it is not just that people expect things from others; it is that we have stopped working and helping.

I think the anniversaries of the births of our countries is a good time to remind us of that: we will only fluorish not when the government gives us everything, but when we all work hard together.

Happy long weekend, everybody! Now go do something nice for someone.

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Wifey Wednesday: What Makes Men Romantic?

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

This Wifey Wednesday post is reprinted from 2009.

Wild flower poesy
Photo by Rev Stan

Many of you would kill for flowers.

You can't figure out why he can always remember the oil change and when the game is on but he can't remember to pick up flowers every now and then.

I've had a rocky relationship with flowers myself.

When we were first married, Keith used to buy me chocolate truffles. I love chocolate truffles. Especially in the bath.

But then one day he started buying me flowers. In fact, he vowed, without telling me, that he would buy me flowers every two weeks for six months.

And he did. They started coming like clockwork. He was expecting me to be ecstatic. Romantic. Enthusiastic.

Instead I began to seethe.

And the more flowers came, the more upset I became.

You see, about the time Keith made his pledge to buy me flowers I realized that I had gained ten pounds. I don't know how I did it; it just appeared one day. And I was very sensitive to it.

So when he started bringing me flowers, all I could think was, "He thinks I'm fat so now he won't bring me chocolate."

Pretty stupid, eh?

Fast forward to last week. I was away speaking for a few nights, and the night before I left I was rather distracted. So we didn't--you know.

Then I came home at midnight. So we didn't--you know.

The next night I know he was hoping for it. And normally it would have happened! I like it, too, after all.

But I was tired and grumpy. So we didn't. And neither of us slept well.

The night after that I threw myself into it, we had a good time, and all was well.

The next day he brought me flowers.

Sex flowers.

And I thought, why do I get flowers on the days after we make love, and not on the days after we don't?

And I started to get angry again.

After I had come back to earth and realized that men are not actually women, I figured out what the issue was.

Keith is a guy. Guys don't think that deeply. Here is what was going through Keith's head:
"I love my wife. I think I'll buy her flowers."

Isn't that sweet?

Of course, as a woman, this is what I assume is going through his head:
"She made love to me, so she needs to be rewarded. I need to withhold romance and affection when she doesn't perform, and only give it to her when she does, so that she starts acting the way I want her to."

That's not it at all.

Here's the truth: women have this hormone called oxytocin. It's the bonding hormone. It's present when we make love; when we nurse our babies; and lots of other times. It's what makes us affectionate and cuddly.

The only time men have the hormone is after they make love. So they feel really close to us. They feel cuddly. They feel like women!

That's why men are so lovey-duvy the next day. It's not to be manipulative. It's because they honestly feel close to us and affectionate.

Isn't it great the next day after you make love, how he looks after the kids, and hugs you, and even does housework? It's because he feels affirmed as a man. He feels powerful. He feels loving.

I think we women need to stop seeing ulterior motives behind everything our men do and just be grateful when they are affectionate and loving. Isn't that what we've been wanting, anyway?

And realize that this is the way marriage works. When you meet his needs, he starts to meet yours. It's a give and take. But if you're waiting for him to be all affectionate and to be romantic before you make love, it may never happen.

So are you going to wait? Or are you going to do something about it?

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to confront your fantasies and throw them aside? How did you do it? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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On Rush Limbaugh, Osama's 3 Wives, and Your Living Room
Shortly after Osama bin Laden was killed, Rush Limbaugh apparently was talking up a storm because he said on his show that with three wives, you'd think Osama's house would have been a little neater.

I really don't want to debate whether that comment was offensive to women or not, because that's not where I'm going with this, though if you'd like to comment on it, you're more than welcome. I don't listen to Rush; don't get him on my radio up here in Canada. But I saw a link to this transcript, and I thought this was interesting:

Folks, it was a pigsty.  I'm not trying to offend Muslim sensibilities here.  Pigsty's been around long before I was aware that that had some sort of possible problem with Muslims.  I mean, for crying out loud, dirty windows, half eaten food on the floor, filthy clothes shoved under the unmade bed.  I mean it looked worse than a teenage kids room.  It looked like a crack house.  And they continue with this business here that it was some million-dollar property. 
Then he says:

Here's a guy with three wives living in a pigsty. One ought to be enough to keep it clean. 

So, what's up?

First, a simple observation. Polygamy is absolutely, completely, undeniably disgusting. I can't think of a worse type of relationship. You are property; you aren't loved. That's not even marriage. A marriage is between one man and one woman, and it is exclusive. Polygamy is a debased distortion of what God intended (and God even warned Solomon about it). 

And think of what polygamy does: it tells women that you're not really special. You're here to perform a role, which is basically a sexual one. You're not here to be a confidante or a friend, because I can't treat you any differently from any of the other wives. So I'm just going to use you.

No wonder depression is so high in the Muslim world! 

If you were one of Osama's 3 wives, would you clean anything? I don't think I would, because nothing would really be mine. Everything would be his, and if I made it better, then I'd be making life better for two of my rivals and all of their children, too. So there would be a race to the bottom, I believe; a race to see who can get away with doing the least, so that nobody else benefits from our labour.  And Osama, of course, would never clean because it was beneath him. So they all lived in squalor, despite the fact that he was supposed to be so revered. His life was disgusting, his end was pathetic, and he poisoned everything he touched.

Socialism has a similar problem as Osama's lack of housekeeping, by the way. When everything is owned in common, then people don't care for it properly, because others can abuse it or can skate along with no effort on their own part. That's one reason, for instance, that agricultural output in the former Soviet Union kept decreasing every year, despite all the new agricultural policies. When people don't own the crops they produce, and when others can benefit from their own work, then people will not work as hard. 

Ownership matters. If we're going to have pride in something, we have to have a stake in it which cannot be taken away. We have to be able to benefit from the fruits of our labour, but, just as importantly, we have to be able to benefit ONLY from the fruits of our labour. If we can get something for free, why work for it? But if we do work, and then we can enjoy the rewards, we will.

So let's bring this back around to us. Do you take pride in your home? I did a whole lot more when we bought our house than when we rented. For the first seven years of our marriage we were in rental housing, and it's hard to get excited about a place you know isn't really yours. We could never paint any colour other than beige, and we couldn't put much up on the walls. We couldn't change the kitchen cabinets or fix them up. And why would we put work into a place we weren't going to stay in?

But as soon as we moved, I started buying decorating books and gardening books and everything, because I wanted to make a nice place for my family. 

It's funny, but I used to think I was a bad housekeeper. Looking back, I think it was more that I was just a pragmatic renter, and it was hard to get excited about beautifying a place that wasn't mine. That's not an excuse to keep things messy, by the way; I'm just saying that I got much more excited about cleaning once it was my house.

The other big difference is that when you're renting, you tend to live in a smaller place than you would otherwise. You're giving your money away to a stranger every month, so you tend to live more frugally, saving up money so you can invest in something that's really yours later. For us, that meant we never had enough storage space when we were renting. We never had enough rooms, or enough closets, or enough wall space for bookcases for all our stuff. And it's much harder to keep the house neat when there just isn't room for everything.

The moral to this story? Don't be too hard on yourself if you're living somewhere that isn't really yours. Do the best you can, but realize that comparing yourself to someone who owns their own home isn't the same. And save some money, so that one day, when housing prices finally do settle down to a reasonable level,  you'll be able to actually own something.

Oh, and don't become Muslim. Polygamy doesn't work for so many reasons, but one is that nothing is ever really yours--even your husband.

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Being a Blessing
SuperMom Action Figure - the transformationphoto © 2006 Happy Worker | more info (via: Wylio)

There are some days when I’ve just about had it. Recently, when baby-sitting a friend’s two preschoolers for the day, I realized how much one can forget in the six short years since both of my girls have been out of diapers. On that day, the three-year-old got into the paints when I wasn’t looking. I discovered him sitting on top of the kitchen table, making interesting designs on his clothes, and took one look at him and decided he was too far gone to interfere with now. I just gave him some paper and figured at least this would keep him busy for a while. And it did. It kept him so busy he didn’t realize when he had to pee. My table got the worst of it. He peed all over a chair later that day, too. I spent the entire day walking behind the four kids and cleaning up after them.

Some of us have jobs that make us feel that way, too. If we work at a place where morale is lower than a double-jointed limbo dancer, everybody is grumpy. Nobody wants to be there. And nobody seems to notice anything good that we do. The problem, whether at our jobs or at home, is not necessarily that the work we do is miserable, or that the job is too hard. It’s that nobody appreciates our efforts. Attention only comes our way when there’s a problem.

Living that kind of life, with no positive feedback, can be like living a slow death. Even when we have chosen a life we desperately want—a career we feel proud of, a family we’re raising that we love, a business we’re starting—that inner sense of motivation, satisfaction or drive only takes you so far. We are social beings, and we need positive human interaction.

I think that’s what poisons so many marriages, and causes employers to lose the best people. These bad feelings, even if they don’t stem from huge issues, can start to add up as, brick by brick, we build up walls between us. Soon there doesn’t seem anything left to hold us together.

How can we stop this impending death? My grandfather, after every meal, would always smile and thank my grandmother. “Mother,” he would say, “that was wonderful,” whether it was or not. It seems quaint now, and maybe even a little sexist, but I think that meant something to her. He was acknowledging the effort and the love that she put into that meal. When we don’t acknowledge that love, too often it flickers out.

Much as we may know this kind of appreciation is vital, though, when we’re feeling unappreciated, it’s really hard to appreciate anybody else. We’re each waiting for the other person to thank us, before it even occurs to us to acknowledge them. It’s strange how we’re often the most critical with those we’re the closest to. We can be kind to strangers, but are we kind to those who really matter? When we’re not, we cause bitterness to escalate, even if it doesn’t stem from anything huge. Even so, bit by bit, we build up walls between us until there doesn’t seem anything left to hold us together.

I know many of us are tired. After that day with four kids, I certainly was. But think about those around you. Why not break through that wall today, before it becomes too high to climb over? Take my advice: whether you’re at home or at work, stop reading, smile at the person nearest you, and say thank you for something. You’ll be tearing down bricks, and that’s ever so much better than piling them up.

This is a reprinted column from May 9, 2006.

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It's Not Just the Lying
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

A train wreck of a political scandal has erupted in the United States over these last few weeks, and despite its sordidness, it has given me reason to hope for our future once again.
 In case you have not heard, a Democratic Congressman from New York named Anthony Weiner (I am not making that up) apparently sent lewd pictures of himself to strange young women on Twitter. He was discovered when instead of sending one as a private message, he sent it for all the world to see, and now everyone knows where he stands on the boxers vs. briefs question.
Originally he claimed his account had been hacked, and he self-righteously demanded that news organizations focus on something more important. As more and more pictures surfaced, though, he was 
eventually forced to resign in disgrace.

That’s right: he was forced to resign. Woo hoo!

For I still remember when another politician was caught in a rather uncompromising position involving a cigar, a blue dress, and the line “it depends on what the meaning of “is” is,” and everybody pretty much excused him.    

That was back in my major feminist days during my postgraduate degrees, and I initially liked Clinton. But unlike the rest of the media, I wasn’t comfortable with saying, “It’s not about the sex; it’s about the lying.” That didn’t wash with me. I thought it mattered that he had sex with a 21-year-old intern. All the feminist literature I had read taught me that this was an abuse of power—and yet here were these same feminists saying we should excuse him, because he was a Democrat.
Now there’s one big difference between Weiner and Clinton, which was that Monica Lewinsky was a willing participant, and Weiner seems to have emailed or “tweeted” pictures of himself to women who didn’t ask for them. But nevertheless, in the early commentary of the Weiner scandal, I kept hearing variations on that now standard line: “the issue is not the sex; the issue is the lying.”
When people say that, it’s as if they’re also saying that we’re not allowed to judge anyone’s sexual behaviour as being somehow unseemly. So let me clearly state that sending nude—or even merely lewd—pictures of yourself to young women who are strangers, while you are married and a Congressman, is disgusting, immoral, and shows an amazing lack of judgment. Besides opening yourself up to blackmail, it’s just plain a mean thing to do to your wife, and an ultra-creepy thing to do to these women.
 In the nineties, liberals in both Canada and the United States had to excuse Bill Clinton’s behaviour because they didn’t want to give leeway to Republicans. Republicans, in turn, to avoid being labelled as “prudes”, had to frame the issue as just the lying, and not the fact that the man was engaged in sexual activities while talking about national security on the phone.

But Clinton was a president. Weiner was just a creepy Congressman from New York. And so people didn’t circle the wagons. One by one, reluctantly at first, key members of both parties said, “he’s got to go.”
People were just plain grossed out, a reaction I cheered wholeheartedly, since I have teenage daughters—who are not on Twitter. And there is nothing funny or cute or quirky about sending nude pictures to young women. So perhaps we’ve finally given rest to that line, “it’s not about the sex; it’s about the lying.” Sometimes it is about the sex, and about how creepy and icky someone is being. I hope we as a society are free to start calling out people to behave responsibly again. If Weiner called us back to some basic standards, maybe he did serve a purpose, after all.

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Kids Arrive Drunk at Prom, Denied Entry, Now Sue....
Prom 2011photo © 2011 Kevin Kenny | more info (via: Wylio)

I've found my column fodder for next week! As many of you know, I write a weekly column in a bunch of papers out here in southeastern Ontario, and recently something happened in my hometown that is just so--outrageous--that I have to write about it.

But I thought before I tried I'd ask you all what you think! Maybe some of you can come up with some great lines of selective outrage I can throw in.

So here's the scenario:

A group of parents hire a bus to transport 13 kids, who are still 18 and under (the legal drinking age in Ontario is 19) to the prom, and then afterwards to a party where they will be drinking alcohol.

The principal announces two days before the prom that kids arriving in group vehicles will not be allowed entry, because group vehicles tend to encourage drinking.

The kids come anyway in the bus, and some are already drinking. The principal denies them entry. Now they threaten to sue.

Our community paper (the OTHER one), is all sob story on behalf of the kids. Seriously.

"Students lost their prom and are angry", is the headline, complete with the kids holding up prom dresses they didn't get to wear. It quotes one dad (Travers):

Travers said while the parents and students feel they deserve an apology there's also the financial issue that needs to be considered and the fact these students lost out on an important night.

"Some of these girls spent in excess of $700 but we feel the thing is that they ruined the prom for all these students," he said. "It's supposed to be the highlight of the end of their school years and they took that from them."

The group of 13 students — including the cost for their prom tickets, the rental of the bus and the purchase or rental of suits and gowns — spent approximately $4,500 for their prom.

What do you think? What should I say about this? I'm rubbing my hands together in glee with the ripe pickings already, although I'm also feeling a little guilty about being so excited because I should really feel a little more sympathy for these kids--they've obviously been raised poorly. I need to remind myself of this post on gentleness daily!

Let me know your take! (And bonus marks if you throw in how you feel about the way the paper slanted the story).

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Wifey Wednesday: When Conflicts Don't End

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Rome visit, June 2008 - 57photo © 2008 Ed Yourdon | more info (via: Wylio)
Do you and your husband ever have the same fight, over and over again, without ever fixing anything?

Are you just tired, because there's this one issue in your marriage where you just can't make headway? What do you do when he just doesn't get that there's a problem, and he has no desire to change, even if it's really, really bothering you?

Some of the issues you're stressing over may be very serious, but I don't want to address the ones that are actually truly endangering the sanctity of the marriage (such as alcoholism, or pornography addiction). That's really a subject for another post. I'm really talking about those everyday things which can wear us down almost as much: he refuses to care for his diabetes, even though he's profoundly overweight. He never spends time with the kids. He spends too much time on the computer. He doesn't talk to you. And he has no interest in changing. What do you do?

Here are my thoughts, in order. And a warning: they're a little harsh, because there is no magic answer. But I think they're truthful, and that's better.

1. Realize that you cannot change anyone else.

In my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum I dealt with this quite a bit. Often when we're upset in our marriages we think the problem is all him. If he would just smarten up, we'd be fine. But what's the point in thinking that? You cannot change him. You need to stop trying. Saying, "I will be happy as soon as he..." means that you're also saying, "I WON'T be happy if he doesn't...." You're putting your peace in someone else's hands, and it's not healthy.

2. Try to see him in a different light.

He is God's gift to you. Maybe 20% of what he does really bugs you, but focus on the other 80%. Learn gratitude for what he does do and accept him for who he is. The more you accept him, the more he feels competent and strong, and the more likely it is that he will want to grow as a person. Men have a deep-seated need to be competent. If they feel disapproval, they often retreat (into television, work, etc.). Treat them well, and they're more likely to grow. But don't do so in order for them to grow. Do so because you want the best for them and you honestly are finding things to be grateful for.

3. Pray God's will for your husband.

Instead of praying that he will improve in the areas that you find difficult, pray for him that God will help him in his various roles. Pray that he will become the man God wants him to be, not the man you want him to be.

4. Pray that you will be the best wife you can be for him.

I know he's hurting you. I know he's doing things that you wish he wouldn't and that really bother you. But ask God what you can do to show your husband love. What can you do to be the best wife you can be? Instead of focusing on what he is not doing, focus on what you can do. God will honor that, and you will feel better. Dare yourself to be as good a wife as you can (which doesn't mean excusing sin; it just means learning to love). As you build gratitude for who he is (#2), pray for him (#3), and focus on your own roles (#4), you'll likely find your attitude towards him changing.

5. Change what you have control over.

If he is treating you disrespectfully, for instance, you don't need to nag him about it. You don't need to fight about it, or withhold from him. Tell him how you feel, but then put yourself in a position where he can't treat you that way. I list a whole bunch of different scenarios like this in To Love, Honor and Vacuum, but let me give you an example. If he wants to eat in front of the television, that is completely his perogative. But that doesn't mean you have to serve him there. Set the table, have the kids sit down, and if he wants to bring his plate elsewhere, he can. He's an adult; he can do what he wants. But you don't need to facilitate it. This one's kind of controversial, and some of you may disagree with me here. Feel free! But I think it is important to make it a norm that the family does things together. If he chooses something different, that's fine. But family togetherness is the norm.

6. Find your own peace in God.

If you are feeling put upon and taken for granted, then go to God for your peace. Don't rely on your husband to meet all your needs; he never will. Get involved in a good Bible study. Fill your time focusing on God, and not on your husband's shortcomings. Put praise CDs on and let music fill the house. Seek out a godly mentor that can help you grow in the Lord (not help you vent all your frustration about your husband). Look to Jesus, not your husband, and probably the problems you have will minimize in importance.

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to confront your fantasies and throw them aside? How did you do it? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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When You Cringe if Anyone's Upset At You
india sadphoto © 2009 anthony kelly | more info (via: Wylio)

I have major rejection issues.

When I was a very small child, my father left, and I only saw him sporadically throughout my growing up years. He lived on the other side of the country, and so I used to fly out for one week every summer--if he was around. Sometimes those summer visits didn't happen.

I always felt like there was something wrong with me because my father didn't seem to want to be with me. Other friends I had whose parents were divorced coped better, it seemed to me, because they at least saw their dads on the weekends. I didn't.

When I was seven, my mother got together with a new man who was wonderful. He loved me, and we had such fun together. He had a dog, so now I had a dog, and I felt like we were a real family. But when they broke up when I was 14, that man asked to cut off contact with me, because he felt like it would be too emotionally difficult.

I think partly because of both of these incidents, I went through my teen years letting friends walk all over me. I didn't really stand up for myself; I let everyone else set the terms of our relationship, because I so wanted people to like me. That often meant I was annoying to be around, because I was really clingy, but other people decided how often we would be together, what we would do, and when our relationship would end.

When I finally met a man I was sure I would marry, and we became engaged, he broke up with me, too. He later came crawling back, and we did marry, but I went into that marriage with such rejection issues.

I know some of you have worse pasts than mine, but I tell all that story to say that now the littlest rejection can send me into a funk.

Yesterday I "tweeted" a link to an article on what's okay to do in the bedroom. It was a good article, and most people who follow me on Twitter are Christians.

Well, two individuals who are atheists replied and called me all sorts of bad things. I laughed it off and blocked them, for a few hours later I was out in the car, driving my daughter somewhere, and realized I was in a funk. And I couldn't figure out why. And after thinking about it, I realized it was related to those silly tweets. It felt like an arrow had hit me.

Why? I completely agreed with the article I linked to. I wasn't sorry. I didn't think I was wrong. I don't agree with those tweeters' world view, and I don't agree with the way they communicate. I do not respect them in the least. So why did it bother me that they thought I was silly? After all, we're told in the Bible that we will be laughed at and jeered at--and worse--because we follow Jesus, and when we do get laughed at, we're to consider it a badge of honour.

I know all that intellectually, and after praying, I settled down about those two. But I do have this streak in me that makes it difficult to function well when I know people are annoyed at me, even if I wouldn't have done anything differently because I think I was right. It's one of the reasons I find committee work hard, because invariably you tick off somebody, and most others aren't afraid to let you know when they're annoyed at you (which I find really strange, because I hardly ever tell anyone when they annoy me. I guess I just don't think about it. My main bent is to get people to like me, not to figure out if I like them).

I am much better than I used to be, but I find it still a struggle, and something I have to take daily to God in prayer. I can deal with disagreements with my family, because I know they'll get resolved. But when it's merely acquaintances, or co-workers, or even strangers through hate mail, I feel all horrible when people are mad at me.

It may be natural, but it's wrong, because we're to please God, and not men, and we're to concentrate on doing what He wants, and not what others want. I shouldn't take it to heart like I do. But it is a struggle I have, and so I continue to pray through it, and tell myself that it's okay when people are mad at me--if they're mad for the right reasons.

Do any of you struggle with this? How do you handle it?

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You Can't Live Well Without Community
Lonely Bear City 1photo © 2010 Laura Paul | more info (via: Wylio)

This weekend I taught at Write Canada, the Canadian Christian writers' conference. I love going there and just networking with people, and it's a great getaway. But I don't always go to the sessions; I usually just hang out in the lounge and talk.

Anyway, on Friday night I decided to go, and I'm so glad I did, because Tim Huff, a man who works closely with the homeless and who has just written some award winning books, was speaking.

I have to admit to having my guard up a little bit, because I often don't agree with "poverty advocates". They say we need more homeless shelters, more money spent on single mothers, and in general just more money for everything. But the facts don't bear this out, because in the places where they have spent more money, homelessness has increased (just look at San Francisco). Nevertheless, most poverty advocates do this.

But Tim didn't. He said something absolutely brilliant.

You know how sometimes there's something you instinctively know, but have never been able to put into words? That's what he did. And here is what he said:

The problem of poverty in North America is not one of poverty of resources. It is one of poverty of relationships. We have plenty of money and plenty of stuff. What we don't have is community. And he pointed at a man in the audience, whom he knows well, and he said, "If tomorrow Larry were to lose his company, and lose his store, and the bank foreclosed on his house, Larry would not be homeless. I would not let Larry be homeless. I would say to Larry, "come and stay at my house. I won't have you living out on the street." And there are dozens of others who would say the same thing, because Larry has supportive friends and family.

But some people don't have that. And so they end up on the street, or hopeless and on welfare and really struggling.

But the government doesn't understand that. And he said, "we will never cure poverty by trying to address poverty of resources. We need a mindshift where we look at poverty of relationships."

He's so right. I know a 20-year-old young woman who got pregnant this year (sort of on purpose, if you know what I mean). She is living with her parents, who are going to care for the baby while she takes a two year degree program at a college so she'll be able to get a decent job.

But take a 20-year-old woman who is just out of foster care, or whose parents are both on their third live-in relationship this year, and she's not going to have that kind of support. She'll be on welfare with no job training and little chance for anything else in her life.

And it struck me: this is why I do what I do. My girls and I have done some soul searching lately, because there are some in our church who are very good at reaching out to the marginal, and seeing new people become Christians (though whethre they grow in their faith is another story). We are more on the other side: trying to keep those who are Christians close to God and close to their families. I've dedicated pretty much all of my ministry to marriage; to trying to keep families together.

And I think that's an important piece of the puzzle, because it's attacking the problem of poverty of relationship. We need close families to provide community, so that people do have a social safety net. The government can never provide that adequately, because the government can't make up for family. And in a safe family you learn how to have close relationships, and how to serve, and how to grow. And you're not nearly as hurt in your soul as those who grow up in very dysfunctional homes.

We have a major problem with poverty of relationship. I have close friends who live next to an elderly woman with a quasi-abusive son. She has no other friends (she's an immigrant and doesn't speak English well). She's a widow. She really has no idea how banks, or the government, or anything work. And she was being really taken advantage of. They've stepped in and stopped her son from taking all her money, and started getting her involved in their social network. Suddenly she has people to talk to and she has a church to go to again. I just can't imagine that woman, living all by herself, in that house, with no one noticing or caring.

That didn't use to happen because people felt a responsibility to their neighbours. I think we need that responsibility again. We need to feel like we are a community, because that's how we grow and share. And so I'm wondering: how can we start to solve this problem of poverty of relationship? Have you ever done anything on your street, or in your community, where you've reached out to someone who really was alone? Let me know in the comments, and let's talk!

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It's a Dad Life
Saw this at church this morning, and thought it was too good not to share! Watch it with your man on this Father's Day.

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Women Have it Good
Father's Day Necktie Cookiephoto © 2007 Dean Michaud | more info (via: Wylio)

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Father’s Day is upon us, so it’s time to thank Dad by emptying stores of ugly ties and the occasional fishing lure.

Now I have to admit that sometimes the females of our species are guilty of approaching this day with a little bit of derision. Just look at how easy he’s got it! Women are the ones who really do everything; men may work at their jobs, but they spend the rest of their lives trying to get out of labour. They’re the lucky sex.

Not so fast. If we women were honest, I think we’d admit that we’re the more fortunate gender. After all, in countless things in life women are allowed to have it both ways. We can decide we want a high powered career. If we put our kids in day care, men can’t complain, because that would be sexist. But we can also choose to stay home with the kids, telling the guys, “it’s your job to support me.” If a man were to say, “I think I’ll quit my job and stay at home and you can support me,” he wouldn’t get patted on the back. He’d get suspicous looks from strangers and potentially divorce papers from his wife.

We tell men they’re not allowed to treat us as sex objects, because that’s sexist, but we’re also allowed to wear whatever we want, and they’re not supposed to look—unless we want them to.

At school, we girls can bicker and insult each other, but if we shy away from actually throwing a punch, people don’t question our bravery. If a guy were to refuse to stand up to a bully, though, he’d be labelled “a girl”.

Women can cry at movies, at good byes, at births, at deaths, and even at slivers being removed, and everyone just passes the Kleenex. If a man cries, people giggle and back away slowly.

If we want to make friends with kids on the block, people think that we’re saintly. If men want to, people assume they’re perverts.

If a guy has difficulty putting a roast beef dinner together or dressing the kids in clothes that match, women are allowed to laugh at him. But no guy is allowed to laugh at a woman who doesn’t know how to change the oil in her car.

When a crisis hits, like a basement flood or a dispute with contractors, she can always pass the buck to him to deal with it. But he can’t pass the buck to anyone.

If a man is grumpy, we lambaste him for it. If a woman is grumpy, she has a “get out of moodiness” free card she can play, no matter what the time of the month. And if a guy challenges her on it, then she can whip out the “I went through labour because of you” trump card. Then he’s toast.

Do women have it bad? Of course we do. We’ve got PMS and pain and superwoman syndrome and pressure to be a size 4 and soccer practice and hot flashes. But let’s not pretend that we’re alone in our suffering. We can be moody, we can be demanding, and far too often we can even be condescending. So on this day, let’s acknowledge that men do indeed have it rough. And as much as we may complain about men, our lives would be awfully empty without them. This Father’s Day, let’s celebrate him for being a guy, whether he’s a brother, a son, a father, or a husband. After all, guys really do deserve our gratitude.

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"My Son is Not Invisible"
Looking Upphoto © 2008 ambertq | more info (via: Wylio)

I'm heading out the door this morning to go teach at a writer's conference (the last time I have to go anywhere until mid-September! Yay!).

Anyway, in lieu of writing a post, I thought I'd leave with the absolute BEST post I have read on the web in a while.

She starts off by saying,

My son has a superpower.

He is invisible.

Most disabled people are, you know

They are born with it, alongside twisted limbs or broken minds.

My son, he can’t walk, or talk, or eat

He can’t hear and he will never fly. But

He is invisible.

You may not have seen him. But he saw you

He smiled at you. A smile

Bright as a ray of light shining through a cracked window.

He looked at you.

But you must read the whole thing.

It was so beautifully written, and convicted me. I have had a son with Down Syndrome (he passed away). And yet, as I read this, I started to wonder, do I do this? I try so hard not to, but I think I'm guilty of this a bit, too. And it was a wonderful reminder to really LOOK at everybody, for all of us are precious in God's sight.


Wifey Wednesday: In Need of Conversation

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

I don't have time today to write a long post; I'm in the middle of sending in my final edits for my book, The Good Girl's Guide to Sex. So instead I think I'll post a video I saw recently that I thought was pretty clever--and kinda funny!

Do you and your husband have enough "conversation"?

What do you think?

Normally on Wednesdays I ask you all to link up, but the site that I get my "linky" code from is down today, so if you want to write a Wifey Wednesday post, just put the link in the comments!

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Procrastination is the Name of the Game
I need to have my final edits for my book, The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex, in at the publisher tomorrow.

I don't actually have to make that many changes, and most of them I've done. But there are a few additions to the book that I've had to write--not long ones, but things that really need to be addressed.

But here's the problem. My book was already WRITTEN. It was already FINISHED. Everything flowed beautifully. So it's no problem to write the additions; I just can't figure out where to put them because they totally wreck the flow.

So I have a new strategy for doing my edits. It goes something like this:

  1. Write the addition.
  2. Stare at the computer screen.
  3. Check email.
  4. Wander into the girls' rooms, where they are working, to see if either needs to talk. How do they feel about life?
  5. Get kicked out of the girls' rooms.
  6. Fold some laundry.
  7. Stare at the computer screen some more.
  8. Read blogs.
  9. Clean my shower. (It really needed it).
  10. Read some more blogs.
  11. Check Facebook.
  12. Repeat.

Unfortunately, this strategy has not been working tremendously well to actually get anything accomplished, and so I may have to mix it up a bit today. In the meantime, I've been reading a lot of blogs, and I've found some interesting things you may like, too.

19 Ways to Beat Clutter Forever
The Definitive Commentary on what Anthony Weiner means to our society (it's actually quite good, if you're not sick of the story yet).
Young Children Should Have Chores, Not Desks. Why kindergarten worked better when it was just called "helping mom and dad around the farm".
Is Higher Education worth it? Another snippet saying that the problem is that too many jobs require BAs that don't actually need them--they're just using university as a weeding out system. And that's too expensive.

See what you think! And if you have a great way to beat procrastination, tell me!


The Mother Bear Instinct--Why We Need to Protect Our Kids
Swans and Cygnets

My girls and I took a walk last week on a particularly windy day by the waterfront. The water was incredibly choppy. But just a little ways out from shore swam two swans, right near a rocky barrier, with their little babies, only a few days old, huddled up on a rock. They were protecting their babies from the wind by staying near the rocks that were breaking the waves. Great parents!

Isn't that a parent's first instinct: to protect their children? I thought about that when I heard about this news story. It's a heartbreaking one. In Milwaukee, a mother is complaining because her 4-year-old daughter is repeatedly being attacked on a school bus. She comes home with bruises. Two pairs of glasses have already been broken this year.

She complained to the school, but they did nothing except to blame the fight on a 4-year-old girl. So she called the local news station, who sent a cameraman out to follow the bus on two different days, and caught on tape kids running out of seats, punching each other, and in general causing tremendous chaos.

Read the story (and watch the video) here.

Yet one thing in the story really struck me.

Ms. Edwards says, “My main concern is for her to go to school and learn and be safe”.

As the bus pulls away we follow it. Watching and waiting to see what happens. Back at home the girl’s mother is fighting back tears she says she can’t believe her daughter has to go through this every day.

Edwards adds, “She continues to get hurt. Why? That hurts as a parent”.

Why is a 4-year-old getting on a schoolbus everyday where she is getting bullied?

Now I don't want to turn this post into a haranguing of the mother. As far as I'm concerned, she's the best parent in this story. She at least contacted the school and the school board repeatedly, and then contacted the news agency. It doesn't seem as if any of the other parents have done anything (since the school board said they have had no other complaints about that bus). So here is a mom who obviously loves her child. Pictures of the girl are all over her house, which is nicely kept. This is a good mom.

But even good parents can be caught up to reflexively do what everybody does--namely, put your child on a school bus. That's what we do to get our kids to school, and we start to feel like we don't have a choice because that's what everybody does.

You do have a choice. Perhaps this woman has fewer choices than many, because it looks as if she is a single mom. Maybe she has no other way of getting her child to school and still make it to work; I don't know. It's just another heartbreaking example of why we need two parents.

But you are the parent. You don't have to make your child go through a horrid situation at school just because "that's what everybody does", or "it's inevitable." You can pull your child out of school and raise a huge fuss to get them into a different school (it looks like that's what this mom is trying to do by contacting the news agency).

You can drive them to school yourself, or volunteer to be the school bus monitor. Or, in desperate straits, you can homeschool. Now whenever I mention homeschooling people get upset at me because they can't for whatever reason, but it is a valid option. We've been homeschooling since Becca was in grade 1, and you can remove your children from the school system. I had one friend who took her child out of grade 2 for six months just to teach her how to read, and then put her back in once she learned. The school hadn't taught her properly, and her confidence was faltering. So she bought Hooked on Phonics, worked through it with her, and all was well.

You don't have to put up with the things that school does. You don't have to put your child in sex ed, for instance. If the school says it's mandatory and you can't get out of it, don't make a fuss. Just schedule all their doctors and dentists appointments for those particular times.

If your child's school is holding a dance for grade 5, your child does not have to go. If your children's grade 8 class is having a coed sleepover to celebrate the end of the year, you don't have to let your child go.

We do have choices. We do not have to reflexively just do what everybody else is doing, and think that "this is just terrible, but what other choice is there?"

There is always another choice, and that choice is to just say, "no." "Enough."

Those swans knew how to protect their babies, and we need to learn how to protect our babies, too. So don't go with the waves. Find a buffer, and use it. You're the parent, and it's okay to say, "you're not doing that with my kid."

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Breaking the Mold
Amandaphoto © 2010 Henrique Pinto | more info (via: Wylio)

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Recently I was chatting with a woman who’s walking through a bleak time in her marriage. She’s not sure if it can survive, though she desperately wants it to. But one of the things that breaks her heart the most is that her children, who are in their twenties, have told her, “why would we get married when we see how awful marriage has been for you and Dad?”

Excuse me while I get a little worked up here, but I find that conclusion, while understandable, completely illogical. I hear variations of it all the time: “Mom and Dad were such bad parents, how I could bring a child into the world? I might do what they did!” Or, “Mom and Dad just hated each other; why would I get married? I’ll end up hating my spouse, too!”

So let’s deconstruct this for a minute. If you believe these things, you obviously have plenty of negative feelings towards your parents. You did not have the kind of childhood that you deserved. And so you’re angry. And your anger is directed first and foremost at your parents. Yet who are you taking it out on? Yourself. You’re saying: they did me wrong, and so I am going to punish myself by making sure I never have a family of my own. Despite the fact that marriage is one of the best routes to happiness, I’m not going to participate. Sounds kind of backwards to me.

Or let’s look at it from another angle: you obviously think they were not good parents, or even good people. But do you have the same opinion of yourself? Are you simultaneously saying, “I think Dad was cruel and distant, and so I’m not going to get married because I’m cruel and distant, too?” If the things that bother you most about them are simultaneously in you, then what right do you have to feel cheated of your childhood?

Now, of course, you may not necessarily believe that your parents’ marriage failed because they were wrong; it may have failed because marriage itself is a bad institution. That’s a pretty commonly held belief, but it’s not supported by evidence. Instead, studies show that those who are most likely to be happy, least likely to be depressed, more likely to live longer, healthier, and wealthier lives, and more likely to raise well-adjusted children are the married. We may think marriage is dead because that’s loudly proclaimed on the covers of magazines, but outside of freaky Hollywood it isn’t. Marriage is good for you, and it’s good for society. And here’s another tidbit: the majority of first marriages still succeed.

Does that mean every marriage will be good? Of course not. But marriage is not the problem; people who get married are the problem. Divorce is not like the flu that you suddenly catch for no reason; if you work at a marriage, in most cases it will thrive. And if you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you can choose not to continue that pattern. Read books about how to have a great marriage. Go to a parenting class. Talk to people who have a great marriage. Figure out what makes it work. I grew up without a dad, but I married a man who is an awesome dad. I figured my childhood was lonely; why should my adulthood be lonely, too?

If you are blessed enough to find someone you love spending time with, whom you can truly be yourself with, and who shares your values, then cling to that person for life. You are not your parents, and if they messed up with you, you don’t deserve to punish yourself for it. Break the cycle by committing to love someone over a lifetime. Then you won’t be that hurting child all your days.

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Help: Can You Thumbs This Up?
Hi everybody! I've been filming some VLogs about marriage, with an emphasis on the Christian viewpoint--how to get people to stick it out and make it work because they're working on themselves and letting God in (in fact, I hope to film another one this afternoon).

But somehow I guess this video went viral SOMEWHERE this morning to people who are not Christian, and they're leaving awful comments (which I've deleted) and thumbed this down. So could you pretty please go to YouTube and thumbs this up?

Thanks so much! I normally don't mind negative comments (I don't delete them from this blog, for instance), but I don't want people telling others "get a divorce!" in the comments in my videos, because who knows who will read them, without even listening to all I'm saying. So it's not that I'm trying to censor; it's just that I'm trying to give godly advice, and I don't want people to get exactly the opposite when they go to something of mine.

So if you could help and thumb me up, it would be so appreciated! And while you're at it, if you have a YouTube account, ask to be my friend!
Wifey Wednesday: When You Just Don't Agree

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Do you and your husband butt heads about the same issue, again and again?

I've talked in this blog about how you have to accept your husband for who he is without demanding that he change before you fully commit and love him. But that's pretty difficult. What if he does something really bad? What if he's involved in something really awful?

Yes, you need to confront. You can separate the sin from the person. But how can you confront on an important issue and still show love? How can you accept him when you're mad, and he's doing something that endangers the family? Are you supposed to just sit there and take it?

Of course, it depends on the severity of what it is, but this week I read an excellent article by the Happy Housewife which walks you through how to confront over the issue of finances.
She says:
We argued about every single purchase. It took me 14 years, but I finally learned that you can’t argue someone into changing their spending habits. You can’t nag someone into cutting up the credit cards. While you might see results initially, they will go back to their old ways of spending in time and they’ll resent you in the process.

You can’t change someone’s mind about money.

So if you can’t change their mind what can you do?

And she goes on to list a number of action steps you can take to change the situation while still living in harmony with your husband. Let's talk about what often happens during that 14 years where you're trying to get him to change, and not succeeding.

You think, "why is he like this?" You judge him and think less of him. You say to yourself, "he's endangering the family! He's irresponsible!" And when you do this, how can you really build intimacy with someone you think is wrong, misguided, and selfish. It can't be done. You're really waiting for him to change.

The Happy Housewife suggests specific steps you can take on the finances issue, but I want to take her steps and turn them into more general ones that will work for just about any issue. So here goes!

1. Change the way YOU behave.

She suggests cutting the budget in the areas that you control, even if he won't. But this applies to anything. If your issue is that he plays video games all the time and doesn't play with the kids, then plan family activities. Do fun things anyway. Plan for things after dinner. But take control where you can, rather than waiting for him to do something.

2. Ask to talk about goals.

Sit down and talk about what your goals are for the family. Then ask how you're going to reach those goals. It doesn't need to be a blame session; it can just be a "where are we going?" session. If your issue is that he's never home, but one of the goals for the family is that the kids grow up to be emotionally healthy, then ask how that is best achieved without him. Let him start thinking about the future and coming up with solutions.

3. Encourage friendships with strong male role models

Many men don't have other men that they hang out with. Men tend to be quite solitary, and only have their wives as friends. Encourage friendships with guys who do have things together. Invite the couple over for dinner. Play games together. Do something so that he can get to know another male who does things differently.

4. Suggest taking a course together.

If it's finances, suggest going to a finance course when your church offers it. Go to a marriage conference together (they're actually quite fun!).

5. Pray about it

Don't pray that your husband will change necessarily; pray that God will form him into the man that God wants him to be. Pray that God will have His way with him. And pray that God will help you love him and help you to be the wife He wants you to be, too!

Finally, I'd add one point that the Happy Housewife didn't have, and it's this:

6. Have fun together

When you're upset about an area of your marriage, sometimes the fun deflates completely. How can you joke around with someone you fundamentally don't respect? In order to move forward in your marriage, though, you need to build goodwill. It's very hard to make significant positive change if you're angry at each other. So find things to do that are fun. Laugh together.

Make it a priority to just do stuff--almost anything--together frequently. Go for walks. Jog. Play squash or tennis. Do a puzzle. Cook. Fix up the house. It really doesn't matter. Just find a hobby that you can do, and spend time together where it's just plain fun. That way you see each other as being on the same team, and it's a lot easier to tackle any problems that come!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to overcome something big in your marriage? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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A Man's Weakness
I am amazed by Anthony Weiner.

Have you heard that story? He's a Congressman from New York who was caught sending lewd pictures of himself to a 21-year-old he hardly even knew on his Twitter stream. He denied it; claimed his account had been hacked; and then denied it some more. Then some more women came forward (some just high school seniors) to say they, too, had received such pictures. And so he confessed.

Here's a man who is a Congressman. He's got power, and money, and prestige. And he blows it by sending lewd pictures to young women.

Or there's Arnold Schwarzenneggar, who just blew apart his marriage by admitting he fathered a child with the maid.

Or the head of the IMF near-raping a hotel maid.

Why do powerful men make such stupid mistakes? Why are they so sex-crazed that they would compromise all they have?

Yesterday, at his press conference, Weiner apparently said that his wife asked him "how he could be so stupid". I'm sure that's not all she asked him; I would have attacked him for doing it in the first place; getting caught is rather secondary to the whole issue. But it does seem as if these men take inordinate risks for various sexual thrills.

I don't really have time to comment much on this today--I have to edit my book by next week, and I have a ton of work to do--but I just want to point out that for many men this is a HUGE temptation. HUGE. Big enough to bring down an entire career.

We can't shut our eyes to this. We have to be aware of how big a weakness this is for many men. And know what your husband is doing! Be part of his whole life. So many married Christian guys are involved with porn, or strip clubs, or worse, because it is a huge temptation. Just know what he's up to. Spend time with him. If he wants to be on the computer, do something in the same room as him. Don't set up the computer in a private place in your house, where he can be alone. And if he has a notebook, just go with him to whatever room he's in.

If he travels for business, call him and text him frequently. I don't mean that you should spy; I only mean that if we're heavily involved in our husbands' lives, we can be a buffer for them so that it's easier to withstand the weakness, if that makes any sense.

Not all guys are tempted by porn, but most are. Let's not kid ourselves. So pray for your husband. Know what your husband is doing. Spend time together having fun. Talk with him frequently. And don't live separate lives. Then things like this are far less likely to happen.

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Giving Up Your Expectations
Jumpingphoto © 2007 Will Foster | more info (via: Wylio)
God made us to be loved, and to love in return. He made us to live in community; to find that community first in our homes, and then to expand that community as we grow. We are supposed to have good relationships.

But a lot of us don't. For many of us, the most fundamental relationships, those with our parents, are broken. And that's wrong. We can feel it in the very fibre of our being. A mom is supposed to love her kids. A dad is supposed to be there and protect them. And maybe your parents didn't.

I spoke at retreats that last two weekends, and one of the stories I tell is of learning how to forgive the dad who left me when I was two, to only have a very sporadic relationship with me afterwards. For most of my teenage years I was really bothered by this, but I'm not in the least anymore, because God has worked a real healing in me.

Some of that you could call forgiveness. In this recent post we got into a bit of a debate as to what forgiveness really is; can you have forgiveness if the other person hasn't repented? I think you can, but I think it depends on the definition, and so that's what I want to talk about here. And maybe a better word than forgiveness is "freedom". When we talk about forgiveness we get all caught up in what we're forgiving and in what spiritually that means, but freedom we tend to understand. Jesus came to set us free, and He wants us to live in freedom. So how do you find freedom if you're haunted by bad relationships?

After sharing at one of these retreats, a university-aged girl came up to me to talk about her dad. Her story was similar to mine, she said, and what she just wants, more than anything, is for her dad to acknowledge that he messed up and hurt her. Yet he never seems to do that. Instead, he's active in his church and preaches about how to be a good father (he has a second family now). And all the while he's never really reconciled with his daughter.

Can she find freedom?

I think she can, and I think it comes in this form: giving up your expectations that he will one day realize that he was a jerk. Giving up on the idea that one day he will actually apologize.

Should he apologize? Absolutely. But the fact is that most parents who messed up never see that they did, indeed, mess up. They've built this whole fantasy inside their heads about how they did the best they could, and everything that went wrong is someone else's fault. I have a friend who was abused by her mother, and her mother still won't admit it. It was always because someone else was cruel to her. And her kids never understood her.

People can be so cruel to their kids, and sometimes we feel like the hurt would be made better if they could just acknowledge that hurt. If they just saw it, it would be like they were validating us as people, and confirming that our feelings matter. Our view of the world is indeed correct; they did mess up, we were hurt, and we are not wrong for thinking so. It's validating our personhood.

Is it the right thing to do? Yep. Is it going to happen? Most likely not, short of a miracle of God. People have this whole self-preservation system that often prevents them from seeing their own guilt. We can justify anything. And it's quite likely they will continue to justify it, all the way to their graves.

So what do you do? I told this girl she had to let go of the dream that one day he would apologize. It's not a question of whether or not he should; the problem is that as long as that dream is alive, then whenever she sees him she hopes that today will be the day. Her stomach is in knots. She gets a headache. She wants it so badly. And when it doesn't happen she gets angry all over again, as though he has hurt her all over again.

If she were to let it go, though, and just realize that he is a very imperfect person, and that he was not the father he should have been and that he never will be, then she can renegotiate a new relationship with him. Maybe she can get to the point where, as an adult, they can enjoy the occasional dinner together, or talk on the phone sometimes, and that's as far as it goes. Her emotional energy won't be drained by these small encounters; they can just be part of her life, and that's fine.

That's where I'm at now in my relationship with my dad. I'm not mad. I'm not angry. And we chat occasionally, and that's fine. And I got to that place because I let go; I said, "God, I want you to be my Father, not him, because you are the only person who can ever love me perfectly." And I looked to God for my affirmation.

Some may call that forgiveness; I don't want to put a label on it because then we get into the whole debate about repentance and reconciliation. The point, to me, is that by freeing him from the expectation that he will one day apologize, I freed myself from all the tension around our relationship.

Does that mean we have a close relationship? Nope. For that to happen, he would have to acknowledge what he did, because real intimacy isn't possible if it's based on lies. But we can find a type of relating that works for us, even if it's not what it should be.

And I don't have stomach pains anymore. I don't cry anymore. I don't really care anymore. God has given me so much more today, and I don't need my dad. Occasionally I grieve for the little girl I was who deserved more, but not very often. I am the person I am today because of the things that happened to me, and I'm quite happy with who God has made me to be. So I just accept my dad as part of my story, and decide that God will be the one who will fill the holes that my father left.

It is hard to release people of expectations, but when you do that, you really free yourself. You realize that you will never get the emotional affirmation that you need from them, and so you turn to God instead. And then you end the tension that surrounds that relationship.

Have you ever experienced this? Or are you still trying to let go of expectations? Tell me about it!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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