Tag Archives: Responsibility

Bible study: responsibilities and obligations in Philippians 1-4

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Here are some parts of Philippians that speak to an issue that I think is a problem today for many Christians – self-centeredness.

Philippians 2 talks about the importance of not being self-centered, but instead being focused on the needs of others.

Phil 2:1-8:

2 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

And Phil 2:19-23:

19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.

Nothing very complicated here, it’s important to look out for the interests of others and to be concerned about their welfare.

I think it’s a good idea to be practical about partnering with people, and instead of just speaking words like “I care” or “I’ll pray for you”, try to find out what needs to be done and do it. Solve the problem with actions. Prayer is important, of course, because so much of what happens to that other person is in God’s hands. You aren’t going to be around all the time, but God is, so talk to him about the other person and what you’re planning to do. But you must also do your part, and do it intelligently and effectively. (The New Testament book of James talks about the need to accompany good wishes with actions that solve the problem)

Also don’t just stand back and give orders while feeling righteous. Many people want to influence others by just quoting the Bible, putting on pious airs, or using mere words. This doesn’t work in any area of the real world. Instead, take a more active approach. Think about the problem that is preventing someone from serving Christ well, and then act to make it easier for the person to do the right thing.

I’ve been able to achieve good success by praying AND performing supportive actions, rather than by issuing commands or prayer alone. For example, I’ve gotten people to transition for useless careers into IT careers, got them to pay off their high-interest debts, got them to switch their majors from something useless to something useful, got them to move on from an abortion or a divorce, got them to not commit suicide, listened to their health problems, helped them pass the GRE or the GMAT or something, got them to take a better job, got them to do a public speaking engagement, taught them how to debate their atheist brother, sponsored a Christian speaker at their university, helped them recover from bad parents, etc. It’s pretty fun to partner with people to further the Kingdom, but if you just leave it at prayer and giving orders, you won’t get the same good results.

All it takes to move from prayer alone to prayer and solutions is to think about other people like a puzzle, and then sacrifice some of your time or your money to build them up. I have a lot of experience doing this, but it’s not something that I learned to do in church. Church doesn’t teach you to be practical about following the Bible intelligently and with your own initiative. It’s set up to favor emotions (singing) and passive listening. To be active, you have to think about the Bible from a higher strategic level. Think about who Jesus is, and then follow his example. Don’t read the Bible in order to just feel happy or sound pious, instead try to make a plan to really DO good. Your goal should be to achieve a result in line with Jesus’ character and goals.

By the way, part of being able to partner with other people to solve problems with actions is being capable yourself. Don’t study stupid things in college. Don’t get into debt. Don’t try to fill your days with fun and thrills. Instead, study hard things, get hard jobs in the private sector, save your money, and learn useful skills. That way, you’ll be able to do more when something more than passive words or feelings is needed. One time, a woman I knew severely hurt her hand at work. She has OCD, and liked to clean the stairs in her house every day. She has a furry cat who drops fur everywhere. So she was lugging this heavy vacuum up and down the stairs every day. And spending a lot of time ironing with an old-fashioned heavy iron, too. So I bought her a hand vacuum and a fancy new iron. With the extra time she saved, she was able to do more reading, public speaking and helping others. Doing Christianity well means making yourself strong, so you can look after others with more than just feelings, piety and prayers.

Philippians is my favorite book of the Bible. And the most important thing about Philippians is that it’s good to be focused on other people, and not on ourselves, and to think of the interests of others, not our own interests. It’s good to get down into the weeds of other people’s problems, and act to self-sacrificially to solve them. Read the book (it’s short) and see if there are not people who you could partner with by helping them solve problems so they can be more effective.

How to apologize effectively: responsibility, restitution, repentance

Lets take a closer look at a puzzle
Lets take a closer look at a puzzle

I guess everyone already knows about Gary Chapman and his 5 Love Languages. But have you heard of his 5 Love Languages of apologies?

I want to focus on two of them that I think are important, because I don’t want people to think that just saying “I’m sorry” is good enough.

Here they are (straight out of his book):

Apology Language #3: Making Restitution

In the public arena, our emphasis upon restitution is based upon our sense of justice. The one who commits the crime should pay for the wrongdoing. In contrast, in the private sphere of family and other close relationships, our desire for restitution is almost always based upon our need for love. After being hurt deeply, we need the reassurance that the person who hurt us still loves us.

“How could they love me and do that?” is the question that lingers in our minds. The words “I’m sorry; I was wrong” may not be enough.

For some people, restitution is their primary apology language. For them the statement, “It is not right for me to have treated you that way,” must be followed with “What can I do to show you that I still care about you?” Without this effort at restitution, this person will question the sincerity of the apology. They will continue to feel unloved even though you may have said, “I am sorry; I was wrong.” They wait for the reassurance that you genuinely love them.

The question, then, is how do we make restitution in the most effective way? Since the heart of restitution is reassuring the spouse or family member that you genuinely love him or her, it is essential to express restitution in the love language of the other person.

[…]If restitution is the primary apology language of an individual, then this becomes the most important part of the apology. “I’m sorry; I was wrong” will never be taken as sincere if these words are not accompanied by a sincere effort at restitution. They wait for the assurance that you still genuinely love them. Without your effort to make amends, the apology will not have the desired results of forgiveness.

Apology Language #4: Genuinely Repenting

The word repentance means “to turn around” or “to change one’s mind.” In the context of an apology, it means that an individual realizes that his or her present behavior is destructive. The person regrets the pain he or she is causing the other person, and he chooses to change his behavior.

Without genuine repentance, the other languages of apology may fall on deaf ears. What people who’ve been hurt want to know is, “Do you intend to change, or will this happen again next week?”

How then do we speak the language of repentance?

  • It begins with an expression of intent to change. When we share our intention to change with the person we have offended, we are communicating to them what is going on inside of us. They get a glimpse of our heart—and this often is the language that convinces them we mean what we say.
  • The second step down the road of repentance is developing a plan for implementing change.Often apologies fail to be successful in restoring the relationship because there is no plan for making positive change.
  • The third step down the road of repentance is implementing the plan. Following through with the plan gives evidence to the offended party that your apology was sincere.

Most people do not expect perfection after an apology, but they do expect to see effort.

Thus, expressing your desire to change and coming up with a plan is an extremely important part of an apology to this person. Inviting the offended person to help you come up with a plan for change is perhaps the best way to effectively show repentance.

Here are some practical tips that I recommend to someone who has done something morally wrong and who wants to apologize.

To fix the problem you need more than talk

To me, the only thing that needs an apology is breaking a moral rule – you can’t beat someone up for just making a mistake. Whenever someone breaks a moral rule with me, like disrespecting me or being selfish, then I pick out a book for them to read and ask them to read it and then write something about how what they learned in the book applies to what they did to me. I don’t pick very long books! But I do this for a very important reason.

The very important reason is that I don’t trust people who just agree with me. I don’t trust people’s words. If someone is really sorry about something, then I want them to read something that describes the moral rule that they broke, and to be willing to listen to the feelings of the person they harmed by breaking that rule. That goes a long way in my mind.

Ten sensible self-control laws that will reduce the risk of gun violence

Air Force TACPs confirm target locations with their map
Air Force TACPs confirm target locations with their map

I really liked this article from Intellectual Takeout, which had a list of recommendations to reduce gun violence. Although most people today are looking at gun regulations to reduce gun violence, we actually had a lot of guns in previous generations, but a lot less gun violence. Maybe it’s because more people made wiser choices.

The article says:

  1. Don’t commit suicide. This is the most common gun-related death, being about 63% of all firearm deaths in the US.

  2. Adopt a policy of not escalating any road rage situations. If someone does something offensive on the highways have it pre-settled in your mind to react by de-escalating the situation (refrain from responding in kind) and back off to allow the heat of the moment to cool.

  3. Do not join a gang. Violence is the accepted norm among gang members, resulting in many becoming victims of gun violence.

  4. Do not buy or sell illegal drugs. Yes, I do know that it’s the drug laws more than the drugs themselves that leads to gun violence among drug buyers and sellers. But, people already on the wrong side of the law are more likely to commit gun violence than the law-abiding population.

  5. Do not get involved with abusive people. Someone who previously has physically abused a partner is more likely to do so than are those who have never engaged in such abuse.

  6. Implement a personal curfew. The safest place anyone can be at 2am is at home in bed. Roaming the streets in the middle of the night exposes one to gangs, drug sellers, and other dangerous people.

  7. Stay away from Gun Free Zones. One study showed that 98% of all mass shootings happen in these places. Gun Free Zone signs tell violent people this is a spot where the picking will be easy. As for everywhere else, these predators may be deterred since they have to wonder if there’s already a good guy with a gun on the property.

  8. Do not associate with convicted criminals. Like the abuser, violent criminals out of prison are likely to continue their habits.

  9. Be aware of your surroundings. Make it a habit to look around and assess any situation you are in. Most victims of gun violence have no warning of the impending danger, the old saying “to be forewarned is to be forearmed” is pertinent here. So, no staring at your cell phone!

  10. Avoid people who handle guns in an irresponsible manner. Anyone who casually or even unknowingly points a gun at someone or who does not exercise good gun safety such as carefully checking to see that a gun is unloaded is someone to be avoided.

  11. Bonus Suggestion: Do not be a predator. A significant number (about 700 each year) of gun deaths are justifiable homicide wherein a victim successfully defends themselves from criminal assault.

This list of self-control laws is so different than what you see politicians proposing. This list is targeted to individuals, and it is telling them to understand how danger works, and then make adjustments in their choices and priorities in order to minimize the risk. The politicians instead want to blame inanimate objects and take away the rights of law-abiding people to defend themselves from criminals.

Is expecting self-control reasonable?

I have talked to anti-gun people about changing their behavior to minimize their risk of being a victim. Their response was that they shouldn’t have to act any particular way in order to avoid bad consequences. They should just be able to make the government big enough to somehow magically stop bad things from happening to them, no matter what choices they made. Their right to pursue happiness in the moment could not be challenged in any way.

It made me think of women who want to go out wearing skimpy clothes, get drunk in bars surrounded by strange men, and then cry victim when they wake-up somewhere strange the next morning. There is a wisdom to life, and wise people don’t mind that they have to show a little self-control in order to avoid bad outcomes. A woman cannot shack up with a hunky guy who has tattoos, piercings and a criminal record, and then complain when he gets violent. If you choose poorly, then you will face consequences. There is a cost to making choices based on feelings alone.

The same thing happens with people who want to study English, Journalism, and other easy subjects, then can’t find jobs when they graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in loans. “It’s not fair” they say “I need a bailout”. “The government should raise the minimum wage, so I can be paid the same as people who studied hard STEM subjects and got more productive jobs”. Again, the solution is not to blame others and punt to government, the solution is to respect the way the world works and make decisions that are likely to succeed. Don’t let your feelings decide. Don’t do what is free, easy and fun. Don’t chase thrills and travel.

Black economist Walter Williams has a famous list of four choices that he tells young people to make in order to avoid being poor.

Here are his four choices:

  1. Graduate from high school
  2. Get married before you have children
  3. Take any job (to start out)
  4. Don’t commit any crimes

I have one more to add: when you marry, marry someone who takes commitment seriously, so there is no divorce. Divorce is a wealth-killer. Pick a spouse who is able to make and keep commitments that survive their changing feelings and desires. And maybe one more: study for a STEM degree if you go to college.

Again, if you try to tell young people to make good decisions like those, they don’t want to listen. But making those decisions correctly actually gets them the result they want.

Previous generations tended to emphasize the importance of understanding how the world works, and then making good decisions in order to reach a goal. Those people don’t look to government to solve their problems. This generation seems to be more focused on doing what feels good, then acting surprised when it doesn’t “work out”. They aren’t curious to find out how the world really works so they can do the right thing. They just want to do and say what makes them feel good and look good to others.

Can relationships succeed independently of the efforts of the people involved?

Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship
Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship

A few years ago, I blogged about the soul mate / fairy tale view of marriage, which I think is the dominant view of marriage among young people today – even among Christians. This view of marriage basically says that there is a person in the world out there who will match up so perfectly with each one of us that we will have to expend no effort and perform no actions and take responsibility for nothing in order for the relationship to work. it will just work on its own!

I’ve decided to link to this recent article by Matt Walsh which is on that same topic.

He writes:

The disease is the fanciful, unrealistic, fictionalized perceptions that both males and females harbor about marriage.

For example, think of the glamorization of the “mysterious” and “damaged” guy from the “wrong side of the tracks.” Hollywood makes him seem alluring and sexy, but forgets to mention that most of the time, in the real world, that dude probably has herpes, a coke habit, and a criminal record.

Still, that bit of propaganda is nothing compared to the underlying misconception that so many of us carry around consciously or subconsciously, because we’ve seen it on TV and in the movies, and read it in books a million times since childhood: namely, that there is just one person out there for us. Our soul mate. Our Mr. or Mrs. Right. The person we are “meant to be with.”

Matt thinks this view of relationships is not realistic:

I didn’t marry my wife because she’s The One, she’s The One because I married her. Until we were married, she was one, I was one, and we were both one of many. I didn’t marry The One, I married this one, and the two of us became one. I didn’t marry her because I was “meant to be with her,” I married her because that was my choice, and it was her choice, and the Sacrament of marriage is that choice. I married her because I love her — I chose to love her — and I chose to live the rest of my life in service to her. We were not following a script, we chose to write our own, and it’s a story that contains more love and happiness than any romantic fable ever conjured up by Hollywood.

Indeed, marriage is a decision, not the inevitable result of unseen forces outside of our control. When we got married, the pastor asked us if we had “come here freely.” If I had said, “well, not really, you see destiny drew us together,” that would have brought the evening to an abrupt and unpleasant end. Marriage has to be a free choice or it is not a marriage. That’s a beautiful thing, really.

God gave us Free Will. It is His greatest gift to us because without it, nothing is possible. Love is not possible without Will. If we cannot choose to love, then we cannot love. God did not program us like robots to be compatible with only one other machine. He created us as individuals, endowed with the incredible, unprecedented power to choose. And with that choice, we are to go out and find a partner, and make that partner our soul mate.

That’s what we do. We make our spouses into our soul mates by marrying them. We don’t simply recognize that they are soul mates and then just sort of symbolically consecrate that recognition through what would then be an effectively meaningless marriage sacrament. Instead, we find another unique, dynamic, wholly individualized human being, and we make the monumental, supernatural decision to bind ourselves to them for eternity.

It’s a bold and risky move, no matter how you look at it. It’s important to recognize this, not so that you can run away like a petrified little puppy and never tie the knot with anyone, but so that you can go into marriage knowing, at least to some extent, what you’re really doing. This person wasn’t made for you. It wasn’t “designed” to be. There will be some parts of your relationship that are incongruous and conflicting. It won’t all click together like a set of Legos, as you might expect if you think this coupling was fated in the stars.

It’s funny that people get divorced and often cite “irreconcilable differences.” Well what did they think was going to happen? Did they think every difference would be reconcilable? Did they think every bit of contention between them could be perfectly and permanently solved?

Finally, regarding his own marriage:

There were literally millions of things that either of us could have done. An innumerable multitude of possible outcomes, but this was our outcome because we chose it. Not because we were destined or predetermined, not because it was “meant to happen,” but because we chose it. That, to me, is much more romantic than getting pulled along by fate until the two of us inevitably collide and all that was written in our horoscopes passively comes to unavoidable fruition.

We are the protagonists of our love story, not the spectators.

I see this problem everywhere, even with Christian women who have been raised as Disney princesses. I was just told by one last week that she will marry when she meets “the right man” – the man who will require her to do nothing. This magical relationship will require no communication, no working through disagreements, no problem solving, no compromise, no effort, no self-sacrifice of any kind. it will just “work”, without any growing up by anyone. Two unemployed people with degrees in English can have a fine marriage, I suppose, traveling the world and skydiving every Tuesday.

I think that when problems arise between two people who are largely compatible, the right thing to do is to engage and solve the problems. Yes, work isn’t required in pop culture notions of romance, but those things don’t reflect the real world anyway. In the real world, actions to solve a problem count for more than words that avoid the problem. Engineering principles and self-sacrificial attitude are infinitely more useful in a relationship than all the pop culture descriptions of ideal men and ideal women and ideal relationships combined.

By the way, the best book on this problem is Dr. Laura’s “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands”, which clearly sets out how a woman’s choices influence her husband’s ability to perform well. The myth of the mind-reading “right man” is also debunked.

Can recreational sex turn a selfish, irresponsible man into a marriage-minded provider?

Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship
Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship

An article from the American Thinker answers the question that vexes many men. As you read this excerpt below, ask yourself if it is a man or a woman writing this.

First of all, liberal women seem to be having an awful lot of sex these days. They are losing their virginity early, and working their way through as many “alpha males” as possible, but all the while they insist that a stream of recreational-sex relationships is somehow a path to lifelong married love. Can you turn a man who wants nothing more than recreational sex into the perfect husband, simply by invoking the magical power of vagina?

Liberal women think that you can:

On the one hand, liberal women believe wholeheartedly in the idiotic social construct they call, “sexual liberation.”  They pride themselves on losing their virginity, as though that “accomplishment” had ever been above the challenge-scale of an alley cat in heat.

These liberal women I’ve known, having given away their female V-card over and over and over again, all the while scour their host of intimate “trial runs” searching for that mythical, Hollywood-construct, Mr. Right.  This Mr. Right guy, for whom they are searching, is known to them up front as even more sexually-liberated than they, but this little factoid seems not to register in their liberated little heads as they frantically search for the equally mythical family home with the white picket fence, which somehow never gets hit by any of life’s roving tornadoes.  One can almost hear them say in unison, “And they all lived happily ever after.”

I think it’s one of the deepest mysteries of the world why women think that a man who has lots and lots of recreational sex is somehow marriage material. When I think of men who are qualified for marriage, I think of men who have studied hard subjects, gotten marketable skills, worked and worked, saved and saved, and shown that they can be faithful in marriage by exhibiting self-control in the courtship. But liberal women think that all of this reasoning is junk, and you must just jump right into sex to see if the relationship will “work out” or to find out what you “like”. Recreational sex, they insist, is a superior way of finding a husband. Discussing who will do what in an actual marriage and what the actual marriage is for is apparently ineffective.

More:

Evidently, the liberal woman is capable of the most severe form of psychological denial known to humankind.  Certain that one of the men with whom she has copulated without strings will suddenly morph into a faithfully monogamous creature the minute she can convince one of them to say “I do” in front of a few witnesses, the liberal woman marches blindly down the aisle towards near-certain, adulterous doom.  Yet, no amount of honest reason can dissuade liberal women from this self-destructive, moral myopia.

What other term but “morally schizoid” could possibly describe this blatantly contradictory tendency among liberal women?

Having spent their youth casually throwing their own sexual morality to the winds of fairytale “liberation,” these liberal women still steadfastly cling to the faithfully monogamous ideal for that sometime-later moment when they actually do desire all the traditional things — the husband, the kids, the white picket fence — those pesky female-nature embedded longings, which coincidentally ensure the continuation of the human race.

But these liberal women somehow — in perfect schizoid manner — convince themselves that once married, they will be the gratuitous beneficiaries of the monogamous respect they still desire, but have never once demanded or deserved.  Intuitively, women know that strict monogamy provides the only real security for themselves and their own offspring.  Yet, they continue themselves to spurn the demands of monogamy until the very last minute, believing that fidelity springs forth naturally in miraculous profusion among all “married” humans.  Such pure poppycock can only be explained as a mental disorder.

I think women need to ask themselves questions honestly and rationally:

  • can recreational sex make an unemployed man get a job?
  • can recreational sex make a violent man be courteous and respectful?
  • can recreational sex make an atheist turn into a Christian?
  • can recreational sex make a male slut stay faithful?
  • can recreational sex make wastefulness turn into frugality?
  • can recreational sex make laziness turn into diligence?
  • can recreational sex make irresponsibility turn into commitment?

Marriages last because both partners have prepared themselves for self-sacrifice, rational discussions, problem solving and cooperation.

Previously, I provided the male perspective on liberal women’s poor decision-making about men and marriage. Read the article from the American Thinker (written by a woman), then read mine.