Tag Archive for character

“If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say”…& Other Nuggets of Wisdom

Do you remember any sayings and proverbs you learned in childhood? They may have come from Aesop’s Fables or a children’s story like Pinocchio or Proverbs in the Bible. Maybe you heard them from teachers, your parents, scout leaders, coaches, or any number of other adults. They were proverbs that encouraged certain behaviors…behaviors that promoted personal character and corporate civility. Several such sayings came to my mind the other day as I listened to the daily rhetoric of the news. I felt a twinge of sadness and realized how desperately we need the wisdom of these proverbs in our world today. With that in mind, maybe we need to start by reviving them in our families. We begin by teaching them to our children and modeling them in our lives.  In case you need a reminder, here are just a few of my favorites.

  • “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Ironically, this saying seems to have two meanings. One, if you live in a glass house (are vulnerable) don’t throw stones at the guy who lives in a brick house. In other words, “don’t dish it out if you can’t take it” (which is another saying). On the other hand, we all live in glass houses, don’t we?  We all have our own vulnerabilities. Before we start casting stones at another person’s faults, we need to take a good look at our own. Or, in the words of another saying, “Take the log out of your own eye before you worry about the splinter in the other guy’s eye.” We desperately need to consider all three sayings in our world today.
  • “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  Other than hearing it from my mother, I heard it first from Thumper on Bambi. (By the way, Thumper also has a nice quote about “families that play together.” See them both in this short clip.) Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a little more of “saying nothing” today?
  • Another truth heard in a Disney movie came from the Blue Fairy. She told Pinocchio that “A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as clear as the nose on your face.” You’ve heard the flip side of this proverb in the more popular “honesty is the best policy.” A little more truth and a few shorter noses on the faces of our local Pinocchio’s faces would definitely improve our lives around here.
  • Of course, we can’t forget “Actions speak louder than words” or “He who does a thing well does not need to boast.”  Aesop’s fable of The Boasting Traveler drives this point home. Tell it to your family over dinner or watch it in ChirpyStory. It’s a great reminder to not boast.
  • “There are two sides to every story and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.” I’d always heard “there are two sides to every story” to encourage me to listen to other people’s ideas.  But experience has taught me the rest of the saying, that “the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.”  Our extremist world would definitely benefit from learning to listen to both sides of a story and then seeking the whole truth.

There are many more proverbs we need to put into practice. We need to teach our children these proverbs and sayings. We need to practice them in our own lives in the presence of our children. As we do, our families will benefit from the wisdom of the ages. Perhaps our children will carry these proverbs into their adulthood and our whole society will benefit from the wisdom of the ages. Let’s start practicing them today. Maybe you have other favorites you think our families would benefit from practicing. Share them below so we can all learn from the wisdom of the ages.

Ancient Wisdom For Your Best Family Life

An ancient saying, included in many marriage ceremonies, states that “Love is not arrogant and does not boast.” In a roundabout way, research now supports the truth of this statement. I say “roundabout” because the truth of the statement comes by way of awe. We experience awe when we experience something that expands our view or understanding of the world. For instance, we may feel awe in response to the vastness of nature, the beauty of a truly compassionate act, or the all-encompassing beauty of a majestic piece of music.  Each of these experiences expands our view of the world around us and makes us feel…well, smaller. Feeling a sense of awe plays a role in our health, happiness, and social connection. It increases our humility.  In fact, individuals who report experiencing awe more often in their daily lives were rated as more humble than those who did not report experiencing awe in their daily lives by friends and family. Those who experienced awe also acknowledged their strengths and weaknesses in a more balanced way and recognized the impact of outside forces (including other people) on their personal achievements. This sounds like the very definition of humility, doesn’t it? The sense of humility, in turn, increases a person’s desire to engage with and feel connected to others.  Of course, a humble person also tends to have deeper, more secure relationships than an arrogant person. A humble person is more likely to take the other person’s best interest into consideration and is more easily trusted as a result. And…trust leads to better relationships.

And there you have it…awe leads to greater humility lead to better, more secure relationships. So, if you want a better family life, experience awe together. To get you started, here are 4 ways you can experience awe with your family. (Read more in Using the Power of Awe for Your Family.)

  • Experience nature. Go for a hike in the woods. Climb to the top of a mountain and look over the valley below. Look up at the stars on a clear night. Stand on the ocean shore and ponder the vastness of the sea. Go snorkeling and enjoy the colors. Watch the sunrise or sunset. Nature often elicits awe. Enjoy it as a family.
  • Try something new and exciting. Novelty contributes to awe. Visit someplace you have never been before. Try something new. Go to a symphony or musical. Visit the art museum. Go to an area of the country or state that you have never visited before. Novelty opens the door to awe.
  • Get curious. We experience awe when we experience a sense of smallness and we often experience that sense of smallness when we learn something that amazes us. Get curious and learn. Learn about the complexity of the human body, how a bird flies, the character of God, or the wisdom of ancient sayings. Each of these can expand our sense of the world and put our own lives in a different perspective, a perspective of humility.
  • Practice spirituality. Stand in awe of God. Worship as a family. Pray as a family. Experience the awe of answered prayer. Gather with other people and sing as a family. Many people experience awe in the religious setting of worship.

When you do experience awe, you will experience greater humility. When you experience greater humility, you will experience greater intimacy in your family. The ancient wisdom is true again, “Love is not arrogant and does not boast”…and that is awe-inspiring!

Are You Accidentally Filling Your Marriage with Fear?

Nobody wants to fill their marriage with fear and insecurity. Fear and insecurity will kill a marriage…and nobody wants to live through a dying marriage. However, I have seen far too many marriages filled with fear because of the subtle actions of one partner. At first glance, these actions seem harmless. But, with a second look, you can see the damage they cause, the fear they build, and the insecurity they create. Let me explain three of these accidental-fear-building actions so you can erase them from your life and marriage.

  • Impatience and anger. Of course, we all have moments of impatience. However, when impatience becomes the modus operandi in your marriage, fear is the result. The spouse and family of a chronically impatient person feel the need to “walk on egg shells” to avoid the “next blow up.” They fear the impatient person’s anger and never know what will set it off…a spilled drink, a laugh at the “wrong” moment, a difference of opinion. The whole family lives in fear when they live with an impatient person.
  • Arrogance and pride. Arrogant spouses constantly satisfy their own desires. They think of themselves first and, although they likely will not admit it, their spouses second. The spouses of arrogant people take second place to anything the arrogant spouse deems important…and arrogant spouses only believe only those things that revolve around them are important. As a result, their spouses live with the insecurity of knowing their arrogant spouse will not “watch out for them.” The arrogant spouse will not keep them in mind…or serve them…or make small sacrifices for them. They live with the insecurity of knowing their needs are unimportant to their spouse…and that creates fear and insecurity in the marriage.
  • Holding a grudge. Minor slights, unintentional wrongdoings, and interpersonal injuries occur in all relationships. Marriage is no different. However, when one spouse holds a grudge, the other spouse begins to fear for their relationship. When one spouse harbors resentment over a slight they have suffered, the relationship is at risk. The one holding the grudge and harboring the resentment begins to fear another slight. Their mind becomes clouded by that fear and they may begin to misinterpret behaviors in a negative light. Now the other partner experiences the fear and insecurity of being misunderstood. A downward cycle of fear, resentment, insecurity, and bitterness has begun. If not addressed through apology and forgiveness, this cycle only ends in one way, a dying marriage.  

These three actions unintentionally build fear and insecurity into a marriage. If you find yourself engaging in any of these three actions, stop and breath.  Consider what is more important…your marriage or your impatience? Your marital health or your pride? Your long-term happiness in marriage or the resentment you harbor?

The Power of Action

My family likes to tease me…sometimes. It’s all in love and we all have fun…. Nonetheless, they like to mess with me. Don’t feel bad; I do give them reason. For instance, they tease me when I announce “I’m going to bed” but remain seated in the family room talking and watching TV.  After a few minutes, at the next commercial, I say it again, even explaining why I need to go to bed. “I’m tired. I’m going to bed” “or “It’s been a long day. I better hit the hay” or “Getting late. Bedtime.” Still, no movement. They begin to snicker, even make comments like “Tired Dad?” “Going to bed are you?” “Dad, you look tired. You better go to bed.” They laugh; I smile. I might even start to cast some jovial blame back on my family by saying, “Now you’re holding me back. I’m trying to go to bed and you’re keeping me up by talking to me.” It’s all done in jest, just a silly game in which we have some family fun. But, I often hear married couples caught in a vicious cycle that sounds very similar to my bedtime “routine.” They have talked about their struggles. They know what bothers their spouse. They have expressed emotions of sorrow and hurt. They can explain the history of their vulnerabilities and sensitivities. But, nothing seems to change because they do nothing but talk about it. No one has taken the step to get “off their proverbial…eh…couch” and do something different. Making a marriage strong and healthy takes more than talking and hearing the words spoken; it takes action. Moving a struggling marriage from an unhealthy position to a strong and healthy one requires doing something different. Here are four actions you can take to build a strong, healthy marriage:

  1. Let your spouse’s needs and requests influence your actions. If they ask for a drink, get it for them. If they are upset, comfort them. When your spouse asks you to help around the house, help. Do a chore. Wash the dishes. Run the vacuum. If your spouse is worried, support them. If they need to talk about a difficult situation, listen. Give a back rub. You get the idea. Serve one another. (Read Start a Revolution for Valentine’s Day to learn more about accepting influence.)
  2. Engage in daily actions that show honor and build trust with your spouse. Trust in marriage is built on small every day actions. Compliment your spouse. Tell them what you adore about them. Offer words of encouragement, admiration, and love. Express how much you enjoy your spouse’s company. (Read Building Trust in Family Relationships for more.)
  3. Court your spouse. Do what you did when “love was young.” Remember how you worked to “woo” your spouse while dating? Do it again. Write love notes. Dress up for them. Talk with courtesy and kindness. Do little things you know they will enjoy. Sit together. Hold hands. Make small talk. Learn about them, their day, their fears, their dreams. In words and actions express how much you delight in your spouse.
  4. Grow as an individual by engaging in activities that make you more mature and honorable. Keep your promises. Be truthful. Apologize and forgive. Remain faithful. (Read more in  Build 6 Pillars of Trust.)

By practicing these four actions you can build a stronger, healthier marriage.

Don’t Let Your Child Become a Pushover

As parents, we do not want our children to become pushovers. Sure, we want our children to be polite. We want them to listen to credible authorities and obey legitimate requests. But a pushover? No way!

Instead of becoming a pushover, we want our children to stand for what is right. We want them to remain firm in their conviction and even refuse to conform to foolish pressures and senseless requests. I hesitate to say it, but we even want our children to respectfully disobey any authority that makes an improper demand. No, we don’t want our children to become pushovers, victims to the bullies of this world. We want them to become polite people who still stand firm in their convictions and set clear boundaries that communicate what they will and will not allow in their lives. How can we help our children develop this skill? Here are 5 tips to help.

  1. Model healthy “no’s.” Children practice what they observe in their parents (Read My Children are Copy Cats…Now What?  for more). If we want our children to have positive boundaries, we need to have positive boundaries. Let your “no” be “no” or your “yes” be “yes.” Don’t automatically say “yes” to every request. Take time to think about your schedule and the consequences of your involvement in an activity before saying “yes.” Remember, a “no” may be the right answer to open the door to an even better “yes.”
  2. Teach children to value themselves. We begin to teach children to value themselves by valuing them ourselves. When our children see adoration and love in our eyes, they see themselves as valuable. When we respect their ideas and even allow their ideas to influence us, our children learn to value themselves. As we respond to our children’s emotions with empathy and kindness, our children know we value them. When we interact with our children respectfully and in a polite manner, our children’s sense of value grows. We teach our children to value themselves by valuing them in our interactions and with our words and actions.
  3. Give children significant chores. Make sure they understand how the chore they do helps the whole household function more smoothly. Let them know they play an important role in the household. Don’t redo the chore after them. If you do, their work becomes insignificant. Instead, take the time to teach them how to do the chore right and appreciate what they do. When they do the chore, thank them. In so doing, you teach your children to value themselves (see bullet #2).
  4. Discipline with respect. Loving discipline teaches self-discipline. Self-disciplined people are less likely to be pushovers. To discipline with respect means to teach, not just punish. Loving discipline teaches right behavior. It explains the values behind the expectation and right behavior. Loving discipline does not embarrass in front of others; it teaches in private. Loving discipline is not harsh; it is firm but considerate. Loving discipline is not overly demanding; it is patient and aware of developmental abilities. Loving discipline builds strength of character and integrity that is not easily pushed around.
  5. Teach your children to stay C.A.L.M. (an acronym from Dr. Michele Borba). When confronted with a situation in which they must respond assertively, your children can use C.A.L.M. (after you teach them how). They can stay (C) CALM and make an (A) ASSERTIVE statement while (L) LOOKING the other person in the eye…and (M) MEAN what they say. Teach them how to do this through example and practice.

Following these 5 tips can teach your children to not become a pushover. Following these 5 tips can help your children become a polite, respectful person who will still stand firm in their convictions. That’s a balance our children need to learn.

The Habits of a Successful Family

Remember the saying:

“Our choices become our actions.

Our actions become our habits.

Our habits become our character.

Our character becomes our destiny.”

I found variations on this saying attributed to a number of sources ranging from Gandhi and Lao Tzu to Michael Hyatt and James Hunter.  Doesn’t really matter who said it in the long run.  It’s true for individuals and families. If you want your family to enjoy intimate

conversations, fun times, and loving interactions it begins with your choices and actions. If you want your family to become a place of refuge, fun, and security, it begins with choices and actions carried out on a consistent, daily basis. The big one time events do not shape our families for the long run.  It’s the choices we make on a consistent basis that become the actions of our daily lives. As we engage in those actions on a consistent basis within the family, we form family habits. Those habits shape our families’ character and determine our families’ destiny.  That’s where honor, grace, and celebration come in. When we consistently choose to practice honor, grace, and celebration in our families, we develop families filled with respect, intimacy, security, and fun. Here are some great daily actions that will help you develop an amazing family character and destiny.

  • Honor your family with courteous words and polite actions.
  • Honor your family with expressions of gratitude and appreciation.
  • Honor your family with compliments, statements of adoration and praise.
  • Honor your family with your time.
  • Honor your family by becoming a student of your spouse and each child.
  • Honor your family by serving your spouse and children.
  • Show your family grace by accepting and even celebrating differences in talents, interests, and opinions.
  • Show your family grace by initiating the resolution of any disagreement.
  • Show your family grace by putting your spouse’s and your children’s interests ahead of your own.
  • Show your family grace by forgiving quickly.
  • Show your family grace through discipline, setting and enforcing limits in love.
  • Celebrate your family by making it a point to play and laugh together.
  • Celebrate your family with dinner time together.
  • Celebrate your family by acknowledging effort toward a goal as well as accomplishments.
  • Celebrate your family by encouraging and supporting your spouse’s and your children’s dreams.
  • Celebrate your family by worshipping together.

Make a choice to put these actions into daily practice. In doing so, you will build a family who practices honor, grace, and celebration habitually. Honor, grace, and celebration will form the foundation of character in your family and shape your family’s destiny.  Who knows, if enough families make the choice to make honor, grace, and celebration the habit of their family, we might just change the world!

8 Lessons to Teach Our Sons

Our sons desperately need us to teach them important life lessons. Here are 8 lessons I believe important.

  • Prioritize character over accomplishment. The character you develop through sports involvement—the ability to win honorably, lose gracefully, work with others, and respect authority—goes much further in life than the potential scholarship or the winning goal. Character is eternal.
  • Giving is greater than taking. Don’t take another person’s reputation from them, give them honor. Don’t take a person’s dignity, give them compassion. Don’t take a girl’s innocence away, give them respect.
  • Think ahead before you make a mess. Someone has to clean the bathroom and pick up the spit balls. Even more difficulty, someone has to comfort the brokenhearted “ex-girlfriend” and restore the esteem of those victimized by a bully. Rather than be the cause of these difficulties, think ahead and help avoid them.
  • Powerful men are men who humbly serve. Service reveals how much you truly love someone. So, start practicing now by expressing love for your family through service in your home. Load the dishwasher, scoop the kitty litter, clean the bathroom, wash clothes, mow the lawn, and rake the leaves.
  • Pursue wisdom. Remember, “a wise man is strong, and a man of knowledge increases power” (Proverbs 24:5). And, “wisdom strengthens a wise man more than ten rulers in a city” (Ecclesiastes 7:19). Wisdom is possessed only by men of strength.
  • Become a leader in kindness, humility, generosity, and grace. People are sure to follow a leader who displays these attributes on a consistent basis. Men become true heroes in the proportion they learn and practice these traits.
  • Prepare to become an honorable husband…and choose your spouse wisely. Each person deserves respect, including you. Choose a spouse who respects you and wants to work with you for a lifetime of joy. A happy marriage will give you a taste of heaven on earth; an unhappy marriage filled with conflict will give you a taste of…well, you know. Choose your spouse wisely.
  • Laugh…hard and often. It makes everyone feel better, gives you some good exercise, and fills a home with joy.

What other lessons do you think our sons need to learn?

What We Can Learn About Parenting From FDR’s Father

I recently started reading a biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd president of the United States. (If you’re interested, I’m reading FDR by Jean Edward Smith.) Self-assured and optimistic in the midst of hardship, FDR “rescued the nation from economic collapse” and “led the nation to victory” in WWII.  Elected for four terms, FDR “proved to be the most gifted American statesman of the 20th century.”  The author of this biography made several very interesting observations about how FDR was parented. Perhaps we could learn some lessons from FDR’s parents for our own generation. After all, we could definitely use any suggestions that might produce men and women of character in the world today. We can learn lessons from FDR’s mother and from his father. This post will share two ideas we might learn from his father. (Read What We Can Learn About Parenting from FDR’s Mother for more parenting ideas.)

Speaking of FDR’s father, the author said, “The regard in which he (Franklin) held him (his father), amounting to worship, grew out of a companionship that was based on his ability to see things eye to eye, and his father’s never failing understanding of the little problems that seem so grave to a child.”

  • FDR adored his father for two reasons. First, they spent time together engaged in mutual, meaningful activities. His adoration “grew out of a companionship.” Children spell love T.I.M.E.  Spending time with our children will communicate how much we love them. Second, his father took the time to understand his child’s problems, even if they seemed insignificant through his own adult eyes. By “understanding the little problems,” FDR’s father accepted FDR’s concerns as important enough to address and thus FDR as significant as well. He validated FDR’s significance and value in his own life and as a person. All our children need that.

“Sara was asked if she had thought her son would ever become president. ‘Never,” she answered. “The highest ideal I could hold up before our boy [was] to grow to be like his father: straight and honorable, just and kind.”

  • This, to me, is a beautiful description of the kind of fathers we need in our world. We need fathers who live a life of character, a life worth emulating, a life that is the “highest ideal” one could hold up for our children. Fathers need to be men of character—”straight and honorable, just and kind”—so our sons have someone to admire and emulate and our daughters have an image of how a “good man” lives his life and treats women.

Our world needs fathers like FDR’s father today; fathers that might help produce men of confidence and kindness.  Great fathers live out the three aspects of parenting mentioned in these quotes:

  • They spend time with their children.
  • They take time to understand and empathize with their children’s problems (no matter how small the problem might seem to our adult senses).
  • They exhibit personal character that represents the “highest ideal” we could hold up for our children to emulate.

As fathers practice these three aspects of parenting, they will prove great fathers…and great fathers produce great children.

Your Nose Is Growing…& Your Brain Is Declining

Remember what the Blue Fairy told Pinocchio? She said, “A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as plain as the nose on your face.” A research team from University College London recently observed that a lie also results in a declining response in our brains (Read more in How Lying Takes Our Brain Down a ‘Slippery Slope’). Specifically, they discovered the amygdala, a brain area associated with emotional response, reacted strongly when a person first lied for personal gain. However, with each subsequent lie, the amygdala response declined and the magnitude of the lie increased. In other words, one lie Dancing Marionetteset the person on a slippery slope. With each lie, the person lying experienced smaller and smaller negative emotional reactions in response to the lie. This seemed to allow the person to tell more lies and lies of greater significance. That is one slippery slope I want to keep my family off.  Unlike Pinocchio, I want to keep noses short and brains active in my family by promoting honesty…and here’s how to do it.

  • Model honesty. Whether you are speaking to your spouse, your child, or a friend, speak the truth in love. Our children follow our example more easily than they follow our teaching. So, model honesty.
  • Avoid setting your children up. Don’t ask questions that invite your children to lie, especially if you already know the answer. For instance, if you know your child did not take out the garbage, don’t ask “Did you take the garbage out?” If you already know they broke the dish, don’t ask “Did you break the dish?” Don’t invite the lie. Simply state the truth in love.
  • Reward honesty; discipline the lie. When your children tell the truth, acknowledge their honesty. Let them know how much you value their honesty and respect the courage it takes to state the truth. You may still have to discipline misbehavior. However, even while disciplining misbehavior, you can still acknowledge your children’s honesty. On the other hand, dishonesty may result in further discipline. After all, honesty betrays trust and damages relationship…which brings us to the last tip.
  • Teach the value of honesty. You can do this in a number of ways. Talk about a character in a story or movie and discuss how their honesty or lack of honesty affected them. You can talk to them about their own experiences or their friends’ experience of honesty or dishonesty as well. You may also discuss the role models of honesty such as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, or other people you know from history or current times.

These four tips can promote honesty in your home…as well as shorter noses and more active brains. So remember, a lie is as plain as the nose on your face. Practice honesty.

The Countercultural Message of Marriage

I wonder what Jesus would say about marriage? Of course He did talk about marriage some. But, imagine if He had thrown a “section on marriage” into the Sermon on the Mount.

newly married couple chasing each other in field“You have heard it said,” Jesus might begin, “That marriage will complete you and make you whole. But I say to you that only your heavenly Father can complete you. Truly, truly, marriage is not a matter of addition in which half a person added to half a person makes a whole person. No, marriage is more like multiplication in which half a person times half a person results in only a quarter of a person.  Truly happy marriages are made up of two people already complete in God. Only one person complete in God with another person complete in God equals one complete marriage.”

“You have heard it said that you will live happily ever after once you’re married. Marriage can bring great joy, even a taste of the kingdom of God.  But, a marriage that brings great joy and happiness is built upon individual growth, character, and sacrifice. Truly I say to you that you will find joy and happiness in your marriage only to the extent you grow in God-like character and willingly make sacrifices to bring joy to your spouse.”

“You have heard it said that marriage, when founded on deep feelings of love, will be easily maintained. But I say to you that marriage is based on commitment. Passion will wax and wane. Intimacy will fluctuate with the seasons of marriage. But commitment will carry you through the difficult times and the low tides. Commitment will bring you through the valleys and lead you to the mountain tops of even greater intimacy and passion. Our Father created marriage and established it upon the principle of lifetime commitment, not the fickleness of human feelings that wax and wane.”

“You have heard it said that commitment in marriage is not necessary for great sex and deep intimacy. But I say to you that only within a committed, intimate marriage can two people stand before one another in total trust and security, willing to expose themselves on the deepest level. Honestly, it is over years of learning about one another that a couple learns how to please, how to touch, how to cherish, how to hold…how to experience deep intimacy and great sex.”

“You have heard it said that marriage will never last. After all, statistics suggest that a large number of marriages end in divorce. What’s going to make mine different? But I say to you again, marriage is founded on commitment. Remaining committed to your marriage involves effort. You must invest in marriage to make it last just as God the Father committed himself to, and invested Himself in, you. That investment is paid in currency of time, service, and affection, all given on a daily basis to your spouse.”

A healthy marriage really is countercultural. It is established on the principles of personal commitment, humility, service, sacrifice, and love. Such a relationship will have a positive impact on your children and leave a lasting impression on all those who have the joy of witnessing a godly marriage, a countercultural love.

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