All About Pain: The Toughness Fallacy

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but it’s cold, rainy and windy here by me so I’ll use that as my excuse for being a Debbie Downer here. Cuz we’re going to talk about pain today. Then again, if you are the sort of person who only wants to read about unicorns making skittles droppings, you probably aren’t reading my blog. So just another day here in The Upside Down World.

It seems to me that when Christians talk about pain they talk about it either very existentially, “why does God allow suffering?”, or we talk about it very personally, “let me tell you my story about being in pain”. We start from the assumption that pain is a valid, important topic, but even our most sincere efforts to address pain from either an existential or personal perspective tend to fall short. When they do, we almost always turn to attempting to minimize or dismiss other people’s pain. And let’s not even talk about the nonsense that comes out of our mouths when we try to moralize about pain or the behavior of people in pain!

In order to do better, we need a better understanding of what pain is, how it works, why it matters. Which includes getting rid of several dangerous misconceptions about pain. Even people who are personally familiar with suffering tend to believe a lot of false, unhelpful things about pain. Nearly all of us internalize our culture’s prejudices, erroneous assumption and ignorance about suffering and when life goes south, these internalized ideas just make things worse.

Obviously, this is a subject which could be a book, but you’ll just have to make do with a few blog posts. And I’m not even going to put them in the right order, so nya!

Anyhow, I wanted to start today by addressing probably the most common misconception about pain. That is once you’ve been in serious pain, additional pain will not affect you as much. You will have gotten used to it. Continue reading

Let’s talk about sex, baby!

Note: A few years back I did some writing for a now defunct Christian magazine.  I never put these articles up here because the magazine owns the rights to them, but now that they are defunct, well, I’m going to share!

In the early ‘90s Salt-n-Peppa famously sang “Let’s talk about sex, baby” and boy, oh boy do we take their exhortations to heart.  Sex is everywhere.  Even young children are constantly barraged with images, information and messages about sex.

Advertisers and entertainers are busy talking to your kids about sex – are you?  If not, it’s time to get started.

The reasons people avoid talking with their kids about sex are myriad: squeamishness, fear of saying the wrong things, embarrassment over their own failures.  Unfortunately, there is a whole world out there which isn’t embarrassed to talk to your kids about sex and they don’t care if what they have to say is right or not.   With so much noise, you can’t afford not to be in on the conversation.

If the idea of talking with your kids about sex is off-putting, consider something reassuring: your children need good, accurate information about human reproduction, but they can get that out of a book.  A lecture explaining the function of “Tab A” and “Slot B” isn’t what they need most from you.  What they need most from you is discussions about human sexuality.  They need to hear what is and isn’t OK and why.  They need talk about love, commitment and purity.   They need an ongoing discussion with Mom and Dad about what it means to be a healthy, Godly sexual person.

This may seem like an impossible task which pits our cultural milieu against God’s unbending plan for sex.  However, you and God have more influence than you might think.  Polls asking teens and their parents what they think about sex have consistently found that parents and God come out better than might be expected.  A recent survey done by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that the number of teens who listed “parents” as having the greatest influence over their decisions regarding sex outnumbered those picking the next five choices combined.  Additionally, 90% of teens say that providing a strong message in support of abstinence is important.   71% also think that religious leaders have a role in teaching about sex.[1]   Your kids are listening and open to God’s message.

What should you say to your kids and when?   We would do well to head God’s words in Deuteronomy 6:7 “Impress [these commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Ideally, your conversation should start as soon as they ask questions about babies and notice differences between men and women and continue on through to adulthood.  This is certainly a different approach than the traditional “birds and bees” talk at adolescence.  However, a billboard along your path advertising “Gentlemen’s” Clubs doesn’t care about your child’s tender age.  Don’t wait until everyone else has had their say to speak up.

As to what to say to your kids, these core principles should guide you:

  • Stay positive.  God created sex as a beautiful gift, not something dirty or dangerous when used within the boundaries he proscribes.
  • Stay biblical.  God created sex for marriage.  Period.
  • Encourage the avoidance of temptation.  The enemy loves to use our God given desires to harm us.  When we play with temptations, we are cooperating with that mission.
  • Teach God’s superior vision of masculinity.  Almost any male is capable of virility.  However it takes real manliness to practice respect and self-restraint.
  • Teach God’s superior vision of femininity.  A woman who gives her body away will always find someone to tell her she’s beautiful.  A woman with strength and character will be found beautiful without giving her body away.
  • Allow for God’s mercy.  Romans 3:23-24 says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace. . .”  If you speak condemnation over those who fall short, your child will see you as hard of heart and close his ears to your words.  God freely offers grace – you should to.

Whether your child is 6 or 16, there’s already a conversation about sex going on.  Make sure you’re in on the discussion!

[1] Bill Albert, (2007).  With One Voice: America’s Teens and Adults Sound Off About Teen Pregnancy.WashingtonD.C.: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.



Pay your body a visit!

It’s hard to enjoy your life if you are not really there for it.

“I am.” -God

“Be Present” is one of those great spiritual truths like Love, Peace an Compassion.  I’m sure books have been written on why this is so, but so far the teaching of it has been lax at best.  And no matter how much people on TV swear by it, meditating for an hour a day just isn’t practical.  But there are ways to learn to be more present that don’t put you in any danger of falling asleep while in the lotus pose.

To start learning to be present, start where you should always start: with yourself.

Once or twice a day, take a few seconds to be still and pay attention to your body.  The first few times you do it, do it when you don’t need to be paying attention to something else. You do want to be able to focus.  Good times can be when you are rocking or nursing a child.  Or just sitting at your computer.  Don’t do it while driving.

Just close your eyes, notice any noise or smells.  Notice your reactions to them – are they irritating?  Pleasant?  Feel your skin – is there a breeze, can you feel the weight of your legs on your chair?  Notice any aches or stiffness.  Are you thirsty?  Hungry?  Take a good look around your non-visual senses, but you don’t have to go deep here.  Your goal is to notice what your body is experiencing, not to experience the movement of butterfly wings stirring air near-by!

 It’s your body and it likes when you visit!