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Friday, January 24, 2014

Assertively Passive

Passive, Aggressive, Passive Aggressive…terms I’m getting to know a lot about in my ministry training.  We’re reading a book about Assertiveness and how to be an assertive Christian.  It seemed a strange combination at first.  To me, aside from the wackos, Christians appear to be pretty passive folks.  Not rocking the boat.  Minding their own business and living fairly undramatic lives.

Yet, I am reminded that the Bible calls us to be bold.  A bold witness to Jesus Christ.  The books of Acts and Romans are full of examples of Peter and Paul bolding taking the message to the Jews and Gentiles.  I suppose it is difficult to be effectively bold without being assertive.

This reminded me of a conversation our family had over the holidays.  We were all discussing how my dad, brother and I all married fairly dominant women.  My son humbly acknowledged that he too was likely to marry a dominant gal as well.  The ladies call a lot of the shots, there is no denying that.  But is dominant the right work.  Maybe they are just assertive.  Or maybe those words generally mean the same thing.

What does that make us men?  Passive?  My trusty thesaurus gives such synonyms as submissive, unassertive, docile, tractable or pliable.  I can’t say those words don’t describe me…because generally they do.  The class material considers these poor qualities.  This offended me at first, but I think they are simply trying to get people to stand up for what they believe and what is right.  Forget the biblical applications, they are talking about something as simple as speaking up when someone is being cheated or mistreated.  That we shouldn’t crawl in a hole and mind our own business all the time.

Therefore, I think we are really talking about very different things.  I’d like to believe that my pliable nature, and that of the men in our family, stems from a desire to please others.  Yet, it may also be because we don’t give a crap about a lot of stuff.  I mean, I don’t really care where we go for dinner.  Seriously, I just don’t.  Sometimes yes, but if I’m not rendering an opinion, maybe it is because I don’t have one.

Of course, some of this is learned behavior.  I’ve become more passive with age.  After years of having ideas dismissed like they were not even uttered changes a person.  So much so that I may have become incapable of even having preferences.

I’m not looking for sympathy….because the book had one final chapter that made everything right.  It said that you might get in a situation where being assertive is inappropriate, unproductive or harmful.  Basically, choosing not be assertive.  They labeled this behavior as Assertively Passive.  Brilliant.  Actively choosing to be passive.  Yeah, that’s what I do.  If I really care or need to express myself, I’ll let you know about it.  Otherwise, I am choosing to be docile.  This might be lazy or come across as uncaring, but It just seems easier that way.

So I raise a glass to the Assertively Passive in the audience.  Maybe we’re the ones who have things figured out after all.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, January 20, 2014

16 and NOT Pregnant

Today, yes, today is a special day.  Our youngest daughter turns 16 years old.  Ok, not so special for me, but HUGE for her.  Are you kidding?  Chant with her…Freedom, Freedom, Freedom…

I tried to reflect all weekend about my 16th birthday and how I felt.  Unfortunately, I’m too old to remember much, but I’m pretty sure is was REALLY great.  I, like my daughter, didn’t need this so called “Freedom” to get away from it all.  It was more about being able to explore the world without the normal limits.  Sure, at 16 a world without limits is still only size of the town you live in, but you can now claim part of it as you very own.

Yes, being able to drive yourself to school makes school suddenly bearable again.  Put on the right music and there you have it.  Your own slice of heaven.  Everything looks different from behind the steering wheel of your own car.  It all looked so boring from mom or dad’s passenger seat, but now it is vibrant and alive.

I’m proud of my baby girl.  She’s a good kid.  Hangs with a reasonably good group of kids and isn’t afraid to tell me she loves me.  Oh, and she doesn’t have a boyfriend at the moment which always makes a dad happy.  Boys are bad.  They just are.  Let’s ignore the fact that we have a son for the moment….just know that boys are bad.

Back to the point.  She’s a good kid and a good driver.  I’m excited for her, truly I am.

But…where’s the “But”?

No Buts.  Yes, it is a little tough to see the youngest leave the nest on her first solo flight.  Yet, like I’ve said in these pages before, that is what we raise them to do.  To grow up.  If they are going to grow up, they might as well do it in glorious fashion.  I just thank God that he blessed us with such great kids.

I’m not naive.  Our storms are on the horizon.  For all the compliments I get about our kids, I always remind folks that we’re not finished yet.  We’re never finished…are we?

Happy Birthday baby girl!

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bigger or Smaller?

There is an AT&T commercial running on a TV near you where the host asks a bunch of kids, “Bigger or Smaller?”

The kids scream out “Bigger”.  They then talk about why a big treehouse is better than a small treehouse.  The commercial ends with the announcer stating, “It’s not complicated.  Bigger is Better and AT&T…..”.

Obviously, Bigger can certainly be awesome.  But what happens when something is too big?  Is it possible to dream too big?  Can a project seem too big or difficult to finish?  

The answer is Yes,  We face things every day that are huge and seem impossible.  At the beginning of each year, many people make resolutions and set goals for themselves. claims that only 8% of these are achieved.  Whether it is to lose weight, exercise, spend more time with family or get organized we fail 92% of the time.

I believe most of these are unsuccessful simply because they are too big.  We visualize what we’ll look or feel like once we achieve our goal.  Some people get paralyzed before even starting, but most dive in without any real plan of action.  The luster tarnishes quickly and we quietly quit pursuing that which we proudly proclaimed just weeks or even days earlier.

The remedy for this is to focus on today.  We get so caught up in what we hope to be that we lose focus on who we are and what we can control at this very moment.  The reality is that we’ll be better tomorrow if we do a better job with today.  

I’m reading yet another account of someone’s experience thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.  The 2,180 miles from end to end is attempted by thousands of people each year.  About 25% of those who start actually make it.  For months, they hike.  Years of preparation all boil down to just that.  Wake up each day and start walking.  Doing that day what they can to achieve success, not in the long run, but on that particular day.  In their case, stack up six months of these back to back and BOOM.  You are now a Thru Hiker.  An extreme title for any outdoorsman.

Maybe you haven’t accomplished something so daunting.  Yet, I guarantee you have had successes in your life built in that very same manner.  Taking the necessary steps at each critical point to claim victory.

Over the past few weeks, I have reflected on things that I have accomplished that I never thought possible.  Things I’ve attempted in the past only to fail…sometimes on day one and sometimes months down the line.  Yet, I finally crossed the finish line in a handful of those things.  I guess that tells me not to give up.  Nothing is too big with planning and perseverance.

So, Bigger or Smaller?

I’ll still take Bigger, but I know that Bigger is only better if we get there through small and often uninspiring achievements each day.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace