Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Extra Mile

In the military there are levels of reward that are above the monthly paycheck. Financial compensation is given to those who successfully do what is required of them. But for those who go above and beyond, there are medals and citations and other forms of recognition.

The same holds true in the scholastic world. Some will graduate having completed the necessities for graduation while others will get awards for having reached way beyond the minimum requirements.

In business, bonuses are often handed out for those who excel in their work; those who exceed expectations.

In my business I have had employees in the past who have expected a paycheck simply for showing up for work. They had no sense of having to really accomplish something of value. There was a naivety or arrogance or entitlement mentality that was quite confusing and annoying for me and my partners.  

I have seen the same kind of attitude in couples that are married. Some spouses have expectations that they deserve this or that simply because they made it successfully through the wedding ceremony.

One of the things we tell guys in our men’s group is that you don’t get points for meeting the minimum requirements of a marriage, for doing the things that are your reasonable service. These are things like holding down a job, sharing in the domestic chores with a working wife, or participating in the parenting of the children.

We get the phrase “going the extra mile” from the Bible. It was a law that when asked by a Roman soldier, one was required to carry his pack for one mile, but no more. It was a hated law intended to communicate subjugation and power. 

But Jesus asks us to go above and beyond, and go an extra mile.

The extra mile always requires sacrifice, whether time, or energy or money. It may mean doing something that is difficult or distasteful or humbling, like being patient with an unreasonable spouse and not giving in to anger or defensiveness. Or it may mean giving up a favorite television show to really focus on your mate when they need to talk about a difficult day. Yes, even a major sports program or a “chick flick”.

But this is where the rewards are found. This is where you get points. It’s this extra effort invested in a relationship that makes it exceptional.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hurry Sickness

A while ago we were hanging out with my father-in­­­­­-law waiting for something (I can’t remember what it was), but he seemed agitated. Nan asked him if he was in a hurry. On reflecting about it for a second he answered:

“No, I’m not really in a hurry, I’m just impatient.”

It has become one of those answers that we both remember when we approach things throughout the day.

How often do we find ourselves rushing around as if we are being chased by some unknown force? Where does the feeling come from? Is it real?

For some it may simply be habit, perhaps a habit instilled by parents early in our development. How many times as a child were you encouraged to hurry up, when enjoying the wonders of discovery? Or perhaps you were often perceived as “idling” during a task and were yelled at.

We can have this sense of needing to hurry because we “might miss out on something” and yet to hurry is to miss out on something: the joy in the journey, the blessing of “now”. This anxious feeling is the very thing that makes it hard for me to pray, to study, to reflect, to think deeper thoughts than just my daily tasks.

Solutions for deeply ingrained behaviors are difficult. They require discipline, which requires intentionality (a favorite concept of mine in many areas of life).

Often we are not in hurry because we are impatient by temperament, but because we are overcommitted. It is much easier to say “no” to the distasteful things in life than it is the desirable ones. But it is often the good things that must fall away to leave room to really enjoy the best. If I try to include everything, I will often find myself not fully present when engaged in the things I truly love, with the people I care about the most.

I have read recently that anxiety is rising in very young children because of the pressure being put on kids to participate and succeed in an ever-increasing amount of extracurricular activities. In an attempt to give their children an “advantage or head start” in life, they are really crippling them emotionally – and perhaps stressing the family out financially as well. The distress felt by kids to achieve academically to please their parents is, in some cases, related to teen suicide.   

When I become aware of feelings of hurry whether as a result of a state of mind or circumstances, I practice my self-soothing technique. I take the thoughts captive and slow myself down, both mentally and physically. Especially when I am actually pressed, I need to tell myself that I have enough time to accomplish my task.

Is this an area you need to work on in your private life or as a parent?

Thoughts or comments?

Friday, January 13, 2012


When we talk about expectations, in terms of relationships, we are usually referring to the behavioral aspects of a relationship; the roles that we are assuming the other will play and the rules that they will follow when we are united.  But, I’ve found that people not only have subconscious expectations of what a person should “do”, but often also who they should ‘be’ or become. This can be the most frustrating and demoralizing thing about the first few years of marriage.

An example of this is when a woman marries a guy who is kind and easy going, and then when married, expects him to become the leader and to be assertive (in the ways she wants him to lead, of course).

Or a man who marries a career gal, who is assertive and motivated, and then wants her to settle down and take care of him and raise kids instead, when this is not something about which they had agreed.

In our pre-marriage class we say, “What you see is what you get.”  If your future mate is laid back and quiet, well, that’s what you get.  If your beloved is upbeat and an extrovert, well, that’s what you get. If you can’t live with them the way they are, don’t choose that person.

What aspects of the person you are dating or married to are the most difficult for you, or the most different from who you are? What adjustments will you have to make to accommodate your differences?

If you are not yet married, how far are you willing to bend, rather than asking him or her to change? Or, if your partner’s behavior is really a problem, how willing are they to develop a new life pattern before you get married? The answers to these questions may predict either a satisfying or a conflicted marriage.

What if you are already married and realize that you did not give enough thought to these questions before you tied the knot?

My only answer is that you must work on mutual acceptance. You must focus on the positive aspects of the relationship that drew you together in the first place. There may be opportunities along the way for you and your partner to grow in the direction of your desires, but change is slow and hard and must be encouraged with kindness.

There may be grief involved in accepting the loss of the way you had hoped things would be. But there is also peace that comes with letting go of unrealistic expectations. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012


It is hard to see any positive in the midst of a loss, especially when it is sudden and of a very deep nature. All we can see at the moment is a void without limits and inescapable pain. Worse yet, it may be accompanied by no explanation and no possibility of discovering one.

Yet God often does something for us at these moments. He protects our minds from the full force of the loss until we are able to begin processing it. The label we give to this mechanism is “shock” – a blunting or shutting down of our senses until some future time.

For those of us who will allow Him to, He also comforts us with a supernatural comfort. He does this directly through His Spirit and through friends and family that will gather around and share the burden and grieve with us.

No, it does not replace the loss, but it does give us a more solid footing in which to withstand the storm in us and around us.

Those of us who have suffered a great loss understand this and are grateful for the temporary relief from the unthinkable and the unbearable. Only in time can we understand that we can and will recover and once again experience normalcy in our life.

What can we do if we are the one experiencing the loss?

Don’t try to figure things out at the moment and make sense of them. Don’t try to predict or control your own reactions, but allow the process to carry you along wherever it might go. Some people react to crises very emotionally whereas others will respond much more stoically. There is no right or wrong here.

It is possible that eventually the emotions will have to be contained or expressed, depending on your temperament. But I do want to repeat: eventually.

What if you are the friend of someone experiencing a loss?

First, consider it a privilege to walk with someone through grief. It means that you are trusted and safe. The most helpful thing you can do is remain faithful. Do not isolate yourself from the person because the pain is so tangible and uncomfortable. Yes, you will feel it and be affected. That part is inescapable. But it is also what you are called to do by God. But I assure you that God will give you the grace to bear up under it.

Galatians 6:2 -- Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 12:15 -- Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.