339 – Teaching, Criticizing, Helping & Self-Indictment

The purpose of teaching is to help.

As with distinctions that don’t make a meaningful difference, criticizing without helping indicts oneself. If you know about a problem, your first responsibility is to help with it. If you are aware of a problem, but don’t prevent or fix it, you are at most an accomplice or at least a Bad Samaritan.

Teaching must never be from mere theory, but only from the teacher’s own experience. People who give destructive advice—whether they are teachers, consultants, or “well-meaning” friends—give destructive advice because they teach “truth” from either theory or failure.

“I tried and tried, then I finally had to learn that you just can’t change that system. You need to accept that if you want to move on with your life.” His is the “wisdom” from failure. He presumes, “If I can’t, no one can,” but he’s wrong. His instruction only teaches you that he failed and became what conquered him.

The other kind of bad teacher teaches from theory, not experience. Theories are good, but they must be presented as “mere theory”, neither “truth” nor “wisdom”.

Only teach what you have tried and actually done. Share observations as mere observations. Anything else is evil, especially with “good intentions”. Teach people however they learn. Push, encourage, but also understand and illuminate their difficulties and challenges, guiding them along. Don’t ever ask people to change who God made them to be.

God invented rules and teaching to liberate and empower people. Rules that burden and weigh people down are self-made morals, not from God. God’s commands keep people alive and protect them from the oppression of disease, anarchy, and not belonging to a loving home. Once our misinterpretation of “Biblical morality” steals the joy of morality, it is no longer “Biblical” and we have probably created our own “fence laws”. The same is true with any teaching.

Don’t make learning a burden. People have enough to-do lists, don’t give them more. Demonstrate the more excellent way yourself. Guidelines empower and liberate. Help strengthen others by example; demonstrate that good choices can also be an option.

Teaching means this: For goodness sake, go and live a thriving life!

Psalm 119:32, Matthew 23:1-15, Luke 11:28, 45-52, Ephesians 4:29, 1 Timothy 3:1, James 3:1

343 – No One Is Perfect, So What?

No one is perfect. You aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect. None of your teachers, mentors, or roll models will ever be perfect. You will be an imperfect role model, teacher, leader, mentor—you already have been whether you know how or not.

Being “not perfect” is universal. But, being universally imperfect isn’t an excuse to be as imperfect as possible. Many leaders make excuses for themselves saying, “No one is perfect,” but they never specify exactly how imperfect people and institutions must be in order to warrant making new friends and new institutions to replace the old ones. The signatories of the Declaration of Independence certainly thought England was imperfect enough. So, how imperfect is “imperfect enough” for you to change and do a better job?

Your own imperfection means that you have an ongoing, ever-developing laundry list of problems to clean up. So, don’t make excuses, clean up after yourself. But, while you do your own laundry, never stop learning from everyone you can.

The universality of the imperfection of humanity is a double-edged sword: 1. You have your own mess to constantly clean up. 2. Learn and gain from everyone, no matter how bad; if someone’s problems make it impossible for you to gain from them, then you have every reason to look for someone else—but you still can learn from that person.

Imperfection is actually a question of whether you can put up with other people’s garbage long enough to get what you need from their help. As for you, keep your garbage to yourself as much as you can so that you help others a lot more than you annoy.

The double-edged sword of the universal imperfection of humanity comes with a sheath to keep it from injuring people: Restore sinners gently.

When you are forced to deal with someone else’s imperfection, deal gently. Don’t confront with an open blade, keep your sword in its sheath. When you must leave or fire someone, there’s no way to do it that will avoid all hurt feelings always. But, you can at least evade injury and, when your imperfect swordsmanship causes injury to others, at least don’t pour salt on the wounds you caused.

345 – Secrets, Societies & Business Clubs

Never depend on cronies to boost your rise in the ranks. Earn your way, charge on your own steam. Progress by your merits and good work. If you end up artificially near the top of an institution or are thrust into the spotlight—without crawling and clawing every inch of the way on your own—then you won’t have endured enough character-building experiences to know what to do once you’ve arrive.

So, never join a group or club or frat or local church or donor group with any goal of advancing your career.

The Chinese philosopher Han Fei Tsu was against “secret societies” because they create dual allegiances. One cannot serve two masters. If you want to gain privileges and club points through your day job, your day job career will suffer. If you exploit your friends and coworkers for an MLM, your career and friendships will suffer. In all of your work remain loyal to that work.

It’s alright to have multiple companies and jobs, even to join local do-gooder clubs, but when it comes to footsie and secret handshakes at the negotiation table, your businesses and strategies won’t hold their own water. Never accept “career help” from any group that offers it. Never. They need you more than you need them.

Don’t expose them, their destructive wake is easily located—people who don’t have any explainable reason for being in charge probably don’t have one. When a company is failing and people ask how “that idiot” got into power, whether conspiracy or not, he is probably in that power seat because his friends helped him get it.

In the Bible-based worldview, Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He can provide you with whatever favor you need. Even when you are surrounded by cronyism, those collapsing institutions need uncompromising, singly-loyal “wise counselors” like Daniel and Esther to help keep their self-sabotaged structures from completely falling down.

Jesus stands unique, not only among religions, but also in contrast to fraternities. Jesus already owns every institution on Earth. Loyalty to Jesus doesn’t carry any conflict to normal, healthily operating institutions that society relies on to function. So, let Jesus be your Mentor.

Matthew 11:25-27; 28:18, Ephesians 1:20-23; 5:12-14, Philippians 2:9-11, Colossians 2:9-10, 1 Peter 3:21-22

347 – Be Hardy, for Too Much Help Insults

Few social gestures say, “You can,” like turning someone down from help. The message isn’t always received, but there are fixes for that. If you need to, say it outright, “I’m not going to help you because that would imply that you can’t do it on your own. You can do this. I did it under similar circumstances,” and make sure your statement is true.

To be hardy at the right time you must have been through hard times. You are only able to encourage people who go through hard times as easy as your most difficult times. If you’re serious about life and want to be an encouragement, hard times are coming. But, that’s okay. You’ll get through them. I did.

The social implication of Jesus’s crucifixion says it all. He doesn’t only “try” to understand—though sympathy is virtuous—but he truly empathizes with our levels of difficulty. He saw the demons, angels, sin, wisdom, folly, and disease, yet he was perfect, ridiculed, loved, and ultimately crucified. His patience alone (not yet considering the beating and crucifixion) needed to endure such a wide distance between his own perfection and the wickedness of his enemies. That earned Jesus first place in the competition of “who has been through harder times” (which every human secretly yearns to compete for).

Since Jesus went through worse, I can finish today.

Don’t insult or spew degrading words. Don’t be cynical and describe only the air in the glass. Just say, “Oh, you’ve got enough water in the glass to get through this.” If someone needs help, give just enough so that they can still claim their own victory.

Don’t do everything for children, students, or subordinates, lest they never learn to do things on their own. Doing something correctly requires doing it oneself. Coaching requires patience. Failing strengthens muscles, which empower capability. When a toddler falls on the floor, best to act like nothing happened. Babies are born with extra padding and adults to make sure they don’t fall down the stairs.

In America’s version of chivalry, hardiness was the vital virtue long forgotten for the new obsession with pretentious piety. We badly need a resurgence of hardiness.

Job 2:11, 2 Kings 2:2, Proverbs 14:4; 18:24; 24:5; 27:5-6, John 16:33, Philippians 3:10-11; 4:13

349 – Four Seasons in Christian Life

There are many seasons of Christian growth. It would be ridiculous to attempt to number them since they would be different for each person and could arguably change multiple times each day. Generically, there are a few seasons we must expect, some of these are celebrated by most Christians, some are rarely taught about, some are even scorned by the majority of Sunday morning Bible teachers.

When a person first comes to grips with the reality of God and Jesus, there is a basic learning phase. This includes becoming familiar with the Bible, godliness, and Jesus’s command to love one another as we love ourselves. This season is exciting, energetic, and comes with “bratty”, bad manners and daily “epiphanies” (that other Christians already know). In a sense it’s like being a snot-nosed child all over again. Enjoy it while it lasts for you; be patient and excited with other people while it lasts for them.

Another season is “dryness”, when we don’t seem to feel God at all—at all. CS Lewis wrote “I have never for one moment been in a state of mind to which even the imagination of serious pain was less than intolerable.” Medieval Christians called this season “The dark night of the soul”. It’s normal. Mine lasted about 15 years. In the end, it became nearly impossible to make me sad.

Less celebrated is the season of solitude, when God takes a Christian away from nearly all—if not absolutely all—other Christians. This can be imprisonment, persecution, or difficult life circumstances. “Established” Sunday morning groups will usually scorn these people, basically invalidating their own legitimacy since their purpose is to help people learn about God, while some lessons require absolute solitude.

The last phase listed here is almost unheard of: “Sending out”. The Church—all Christians everywhere—is unhealthy if Christians stay put forever. At some point we need to travel, visit, write letters, somehow reach to others over distance. Too often, “travel” is misinterpreted by Sunday morning establishments as “rebellion”, but if those congregations celebrated the desire to have wider fellowship, Christians in this phase would be able to lead the overall Church to more maturity and happiness.

350 – We Need Judges So We Can Be Fair to Our Enemies

God’s morals are for God and God alone to enforce. He gave His morals in clean and no uncertain terminology. But, no one becomes a judge above his fellow man by knowing God’s moral law anymore than by being a law school student. God alone writes the laws that govern Life’s course and God alone judges each and every one of us for how much life we cultivate by complying with His laws.

In society and family, even in business, we need judges to navigate us through murky waters toward justice. We need someone to speak with authority to pronounce a verdict and exact a punishment. We need injustice brought to finality so wrongs may cease and discussion may end rightly. Judges do not only condemn, they explain through “opinions of the court”.

Without judges, society, family, and business break down. Judgment is so important that courts are often the first branch of government society raises up in regions of anarchy. It was the first office in Israel, even before there was any king.

God calls everyone to exercise “good judgment”—not to appoint ourselves judges above our peers, but to practice and improve methods of giving justice and fairness to those around us. When God judges us at the Great White Throne Judgment, ushering in Eternity after, He will judge us individually by our ability to be “unofficial judges” in the small things of day-to-day life with each other. We will answer for our morals, for our choices, for our love, and for our ability to exercise good judgment.

Jesus considered it a matter of justice when he said, “Love your enemies.” He meant that we should have affection and positive emotion for our enemies, but he also meant that we must give justice to our enemies. While God has rules and morals we try our best to understand and conform to, it is the duty of the Christian to give justice to others without making God’s moral code a prerequisite to receiving justice.

Justice is fair to those who aren’t fair. “Justice” is no excuse to strongarm others into obeying any moral code. Giving justice includes being fair with everyone you deem immoral.

353 – Godly Life Balance

An effective life can feel like a juggling act. On the one hand, you need a strong work ethic; on the other you need to good old fashioned R&R. R&R is central to the military philosophy of the very real need for rest. But, that idea began with the Biblical Sabbath.

There is more to the balance. It’s not a “tension” of conflicting opposites, but the kind of “balance” of an ecosystem with an equilibrium. Like an aquarium, everything must be in harmony. It’s like a musician perfecting a musical scale to play is as effortlessly as a butterfly flapping its wings. Build the skill and the muscles, then relax and let the art flow. Building up the muscles can take decades, though.

In addition to work and rest, there is also love for friends, yet patience in absence. Love your friends and family, but when God-controlled circumstances (any and all circumstances) takes you from them, leave them in God’s hands and focus where you need to. Be present with those in the room and thankful, even when your mind may want to wander elsewhere.

Be thankful—for what you want more of to have more; for what you want less of to have less; and for what you want to keep to keep a little while longer. Enjoy the journey. Even the hard roads make for the best stories told in comfortable dining rooms decades later—enjoy those hard stories while they are happening because you can never go back to them.

When your work can’t get done fast enough, don’t squander your commute fretting about the world passing you its problems and your limited tool shop; enjoy the scenery, especially if it’s windy and rainy. Life happens now, as you go along. God is not as much interested in our final product as He is interested in the journey that makes us into His final product.

If you don’t have that drive to work, then you may need to pray for some. Taking extended time to pray is another part of life’s balance. Don’t just pray for deliverance; praise God right in the midst of any circumstances. Praising God makes the best equilibrium.