Lately, my 3-year old daughter has been testing me.
It’s the classic won’t-stay-in-bed test.
First, she kept coming out of her room with various “needs” or would try to talk to my wife and me while we were trying to relax.
Like a good conservative parent, I tried the approach I was most familiar with: stern warnings and spankings.
But that approach did not work at all. All it did was work her up into a hysteria. Plus, she has OCD tendencies (like I did as a child) so when she gets fixated on something she feels she “needs” she can scream about it for an almost an hour straight.
So the spankings weren’t helping.
Then I tried the “nice” approach.
I’d lie in bed with her. Pray with her. Try to help her relax.
But that didn’t work either.
She only saw my kindness as an opportunity to increase her requests. And the result was the same as before: not falling asleep until 2 in the morning.
As you might have guessed the effective approach was the third option: neither indulgence nor coercion.
Instead, I just calmly laid down a clear boundary.
Every time she’d leave her room, I’d just pick her up and put her back to bed.
The first night she repeatedly ran out of her room for about an hour and half straight. Then lied in bed and cried for an hour. Then went to sleep.
Next night was half-hour of resistance, then an hour or so of crying.
Third night she didn’t try to get out of her room at all. Instead she just screamed, cried, and whined for a couple hours.
Recently, she’s been testing the boundaries again. She’s not getting out of bed, but she’ll stay awake in her room until 2 or 3 in the morning and then wake up at 8 in the morning. A sleep-deprived little woman makes for a miserable day.
So I decided it was time to set another boundary: lights out after half-an-hour and no getting out of bed.
Similar situation as before: tried to get out of bed for over an hour. Cried for an hour. Went to sleep.
I expect tonight will be a shorter period of resistance.
So what’s the point of all this?
Well, I’ve noticed that principles in human relationships are transferable. What works with adults works with children and vice versa. We’re all human. Some are just more mature than others.
I’ve noticed that we tend to apply one of two ineffective strategies when dealing with people: coercion or indulgence. And it all centers around the dynamic of demands.
When dealing with his wife, a man tends to follow one of two approaches:
- Appease his wife’s requests (The Nice Guy Approach)
- Request that his wife change her behavior, usually backed by a “threat” (The Wife Discipline / Classic Red Pill Approach)
In my experience, Option 1 leads to a dead bedroom. Option 2 leads to resistance (though admittedly more sexual attraction.)
But I think I’ve found a third option that works better:
I enforce my personal boundaries. She can do what she wants so long as she doesn’t infringe on my happiness. I improve myself and stay busy with my mission. I invite her to grow with me. And she follows.
Not a popular topic among Bible study groups, but well-worth noting.
Paul’s final exhortation to the remaining faithful few in the Body of Christ was to suffer hardship like a good soldier (2 Tim 2:3).
Paul didn’t tell us to be like a soldier in all ways. He didn’t say go about waging physical warfare or capturing kingdoms from neighboring nations. He instructed us to have the mindset of a soldier.
Like a soldier prepares himself to suffer in battle. So must Christians (particularly men) prepare themselves to suffer for the sake of the truth.
Because those who stand for truth in this age will suffer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be burned at the stake, imprisoned, or tortured. But it does at least mean the present establishment… the churches, the schools, the mainstream media, and maybe even your employer… will not like what you are doing and will attempt to silence and shame you.
This age calls for a certain kind of man. This age calls for a man who embraces suffering… or, to paraphrase Ryan Holiday, this age calls for men who embrace the obstacle as the way.
This age calls for men who choose not to feel harmed by this persecution, because they were expecting it.
We need men who can steady their nerves in the face of adversity.
We need men who can control their emotions rather than react with passion to provocations.
We need men who can stay standing after being attacked, because they realize it’s not as bad as it felt on the first blow.
We need men who can embrace persecution as a meaningful part of their story rather than seeing it as pointless suffering.
We need men who can let go of the things they cannot change, and get to work on the things they can.
We need men who can look at the work in front of them instead of worrying about some future conspiracy.
We need men who can recognize, from the Scriptures, what needs to be done and put it into effect.
We need men who can turn persecution to their advantage by finding the upside of every attack.
Unfortunately, this kind of man is a rarity today. Men today are not trained to endure hardship. Instead they are trained to grow up to be Nice Guys who do everything can to avoid hardship.
But you can train yourself for battle. It all starts in the mind. I recommend starting here.
(As an aside, a man who can endure hardship is sexually attractive to a woman. So it is possible to both obey God and get laid at the same time! Score.)
I think this is why most Christians struggle to find the truth today:
The fact that scholars disagree among themselves does not change the fact of our own accountability to God. Conversely, we must realize that understanding is ultimately the gift of God (cp Prov.25:2; Col.2:3; 1 Cor.3:5-9). If understanding is not granted to certain scholars, that does not mean that neither will it be granted to us. Let us earnestly seek the truth, endeavoring by God’s grace to become competent workers in His Word. Faithfulness is developed through our own efforts; yet it is achieved solely by and in God’s grace (1 Cor.4:7; 15:10; cf John 3:27).
– Excerpt from “Scripture Translation Principles” by James Coram [emphasis mine]
Most people want to outsource their thinking. This is a bad idea. Even the most educated cannot agree. Use experts when helpful, but do not depend on them to give you the whole truth.
If you truly want to know the truth, pray to God for understanding. You will find what you’re seeking… one way or another.
So you still haven’t gotten around to improving your diet, eh? Still haven’t gotten yourself to the gym? Still haven’t been “digging into the Word” like you know you should?
It’s because you suck at self-discipline.
But don’t feel bad. We all suck at it. It’s because we approach it the wrong way.
I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read this recent “tweet storm” by Alexander J.A. Cortez on self-control. I give my take on it below as it relates to Christians.
Self-control or discipline is one of the fundamental spiritual virtues of mature Christians. There are two aspects of discipline:
- The “good” things you practice
- The “not good” things you avoid
Most people focus only on the second part. Christians, specifically, tend to focus on avoiding sin (or self-defined “sins”). Christian men think “I need to stop looking at porn… I need to quit masturbating… I need to quit lusting after women… I need to stop losing my temper with my wife… I need to quit being afraid of my wife…”
But what you avoid is only part of discipline. And it’s not the foundational part. How you want to live determines what you need to avoid.
To have self-control, Christians must be aware of the following four things (adapted from Cortez’s original list):
- Recognize what the blessed life looks like
- Recognize what robs you of that blessed life (i.e. sin, worldliness, immaturity)
- Be grateful for the blessings you have now
- Reframe self control as living the blessed life every day, as opposed to focusing on “what’s not allowed”
Once you can accept these paradigms, the application of self control becomes simple (not necessarily easy, but more effective). There are four questions that lead to results:
- What do I need to do or change to make my life more blessed? (i.e. behaviors, environment, learning)
- What do I need to stop doing? And why should I stop doing them? (the “why” question leads you to confront your underlying beliefs, many of which are incorrect)
- What am I sacrificing for? What’s the prize at the end of the struggle? (prompts you to address your identity and motivations)
- What will my life look like after I do these things? (prompts you to clarify your mission and vision for your life)
It does you no good to simply say “I need to be more disciplined.” There’s no why behind that. There’s only a what. Your motivation will be depleted before you make any progress.
Don’t tell yourself you need to “work out” or “eat better” or “read the Bible more.”
Those aren’t reasons. They’re just applaudable sound bites that we substitute for thinking and action.
You need a reason why.
You can go to the gym to “get in shape” …or you can go to the gym because you want to become a beast in the bedroom.
You can eat healthy foods because you “need to” …or because you want your sperm to be healthy so you can produce strong, beautiful offspring.
You can read the Bible because you’ve been “falling behind” in your spiritual life …or because you want to become a mighty prince in God’s eternal Kingdom.
Whatever works for you. Find your reason why and this will compel to do all those those things you “need” to do but haven’t gotten around to doing.
You dip your hand into the bowl hoping to get an orange one.
There are 9 other flavors… so you might not get an orange one when you first try. But the bowl is huge and you can dip your hand in as many times as you want (no penalty for “double dipping.”)
This is the essence of the abundance mindset.
Life is a big bowl of jelly beans and you can get whatever you want if you just keep plunging your greedy little hands into the bowl hoping for the right flavor.
There’s thousands of new insights and ideas you haven’t had yet.
There’s thousands of people that could give you money.
There’s thousands of women who might be willing to marry you.
There’s thousands of more opportunities to initiate sex with your wife.
But those thousands of perfect beans you’re looking for are mixed in with millions of beans of a different flavor. So keep digging. And don’t panic if you make a blunder and drop one of the good ones on the floor.
Hopefully this makes sense. I’m going to end this analogy before it gets out of hand.
As a man, it’s easy to get discouraged in today’s anti-male culture.
You go to work at a job that doesn’t fulfill you to support a wife who doesn’t appreciate you. If you’re honest with yourself, you’re probably not getting what you want in the bedroom and you may feel “stuck” living somebody else’s life.
Meanwhile, the media and the church do everything they can to make you feel guilty over your so-called “toxic masulinity” or how you need to “man up” and be a better “servant leader.”
This is why a man needs hope. A man needs a vision. And a man must find this hope and vision for himself because no one else will do it for him.
A lack of vision is the root of a man’s frustrations: lack of fulfillment in work, an unsubmissive wife, lack of motivation…
When a man restores his vision, he restores his life.
This is why I highly recommend taking 80 minutes out of your evening or weekend to watch the following video. I was introduced to this by my friend Wayne over at Sigma Frame. Possibly the most powerful sermon I’ve ever heard. And the 1.2 million views indicate a lot of others felt the same.
I watched it with my wife as well and she found it inspiring. It’s can serve as a great “soft” red pill message about why the man needs to lead and how men and women compliment each other.
Now, because I don’t want anyone to get distracted from the core message, I want to highlight a few objections up front that red pill or conservative men might have when watching the video:
First, the preacher introduces what might seem like a novel definition of work, namely that work is not what you do, but what you become. I checked this out in a Greek dictionary and his use of the word is indeed consistent with the Biblical Greek definition … we’re just conditioned to think of work in terms of inputs instead of end goals.
Secondly, he mentions that man was never made to “rule” over women. But he goes on to say how a man needs to lead a woman and give her work to do. I’m not sure why he was opposed to the term “rule” in that context but it seems to be a superfluous point.
Thirdly, he mentions the words “millionaire” and “private jet” at one point in the sermon. Contextually, it’s more of a rhetorical flourish than a main point. But I know many conservatives are fearful of the “prosperity gospel” so I’ll just mention that I don’t think it’s wise to fixate your vision on money… but you can trust God that money will be no object to fulfilling your Kingdom vision.
Finally, a practical point where I personally differ: he talks about vision as if it’s something immediately clear. He asks if you have a “50 Year Plan” for your life. In my experience, a vision is something that unfolds over time. You don’t need the complete vision all at once. You just need a hint to keep you moving forward and the vision grows as your understanding grows.
So all that yammering aside, do set aside time to watch the video… especially if you feel low on inspiration this week.
Fear of criticism is a common fear that prevents men from getting what they want in life.
Since fear is a thinking problem, the way to overcome fear is with better thinking. Here are four questions I use to help stimulate such thinking when I face fear or criticism:
1. Would you rather be in their position or your position?
Many people don’t like contrasts that remind them of how ineffective they’ve been in pursuing their own goals. If your life is clearly superior to their life (in your judgment), you can safely ignore their criticism. They are not criticizing you because you’re doing anything bad; they’re criticizing you because they feel bad about themselves. You should feel pity rather than fear.
On the other hand, if they are in a superior position, be grateful for the criticism. As my college band instructor used to say, “be proud that I’m ripping you to shreds. If I didn’t think you had any potential, I’d just say ‘good job’ and get on with my day.”
2. Are they an unknown commenter on the internet?
They are not a real person in this context. It’s just an idea that you can accept or reject privately with no social consequences.
3. Are they a true friend?
A true friend has your best interest in mind. Perhaps they see a danger you are not aware of. A true friend won’t try to hold you back from growing or take away your power. They’re just providing a second set of eyes. Consider their perspective, but the decision is still yours to make.
4. Can you really have unity with someone who rejects you?
Sometimes you must make decisions that risks relationships with friends and family. But if you’re seeking to please God and someone rejects you for it, there was never true unity to begin with. At least you can be grateful that false pretenses are removed and you can discard the burden of trying to upkeep a dead relationship.
I recently had an epiphany about a contradiction that has long troubled me:
How can a Christian man display confidence while “seeing others as better than ourselves” and avoiding vain conceit?
The passage in question is Philippians 2:3:
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Upon examining the passage closely, I realized this is a frequently misunderstood verse. The context is about selfish rivalries and empty pride.
Think of a situation with two co-workers. One gets a promotion. The other does not. The one who didn’t get the promotion feels he was more deserving of the position instead of acknowledging that the other is more valuable to the company.
Or think of wealthy people vs. poor people. Many poor people feel they deserve the money of the wealthy. But they don’t acknowledge that wealthy people are more diligent than poor people.
Or think of a man who gets “oneitis.” He feels he would be a better lover than the man who won the girl over him. But his ego blinds him from learning from a superior man.
Or think of a wife who feels she would be a better leader than her husband. Yet she does not appreciate that men are uniquely designed to lead.
There will always be someone more gifted or higher ranked than us in some area. Even someone who is overall lower status than us will be better/more gifted in some area. Paul wants us to focus on and appreciate the strengths of others rather than assuming that we’re not getting what we deserve.
But this doesn’t mean a man can’t display his strengths or act like a superior to a woman. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves when comparing ourselves to other men. And we shouldn’t fail to acknowledge the gifts of our wives that we ourselves lack.
I never expected to find a prescription for Biblical marriage hidden in a genealogy, but nevertheless…
A mighty prince sees God then joins himself to an assembly [a wife], a glorious people [bride] whom he rescued, strangers in a strange land, captives delivered by God!
Many of my acquaintances have regarded me as highly intelligent. I’ve even been (incorrectly) called a “genius” on several occasions.
In truth, my brain power is only moderately above average. But I’ve always been intellectually curious and I enjoy using my brain. So to compensate for my limited capacity, I came up with a trick that I’ve used since my teenage years:
Recognize people who have superior intelligence to myself and immediately assimilate their mental models into my thinking.
IQ is often compared to processing speed on a computer. People with high IQ can solve complex problems in a matter of years that might take a normal person (in theory) several lifetimes to figure out. Or they can solve a problem in a matter of minutes that would take a normal person years to figure out.
But there’s a shortcut to this process…
If one lacks a super-fast computer (high IQ), he can still process problems quickly by running simpler and more efficient programs. You don’t have to be exceptionally smart, you just have to use the mental shortcuts that get you the same results as an exceptionally smart person.
Here are 16 “programs” I’ve found that have allowed me to elevate my thinking above my default limits:
1. Don’t think about whether an idea is right or wrong. Think about whether an idea is fragile or antifragile.
2. Don’t focus on what someone said. Focus on what they meant.
3. Don’t focus on someone’s conclusion. Focus on the question behind the conclusion.
4. Don’t rationalize against opinions you disagree with. Ask what you’d have to believe for that opinion to make sense.
5. Study the thinkers and professions most vilified by your community. Explore the problems they were trying to solve. This will give you unique insights.
6. Recognize that the vast majority of activity yields no productive (or even harmful) results and act accordingly (80/20 principle).
7. Learn to identify the types of people likely to be giving you bullsh*t: gamma males, SJWs, jesters, (unsubmissive) women, people with no skin in the game. This saves you the tiresome effort of having to fact-check and scrutinize every argument. (Corollary: learn to recognize stuff that sounds like bullsh*t but actually works: mythical, “new-agey”, pseudo-scientific or irrational explanations for stuff that works in the real world.)
8. Do not impose structure where it is unnecessary. You will end up butchering the thing (or person) you are attempting to control.
9. Recognize that you are part of a larger interconnected system. Your personal problems and flaws are not at the forefront of others’ minds.
10. Do not base your identity on anything that ends in “ism” or “ist.” You could be wrong.
11. Admit and learn from your mistakes.
12. Do not try to justify yourself to someone who has no right to judge you.
13. Realize that science and truth are not synonyms. Science is a limited (and often corrupted) tool of discovery.
14. Being aware of the books you haven’t read is more valuable than discussing the books you have read.
15. Making your work/study enjoyable is a better goal than being better than someone else or getting a specific result.
16. Ask “why” before asking “how” or “what.”
Note: most of these “tricks” are my paraphrases of ideas I learned from N.N. Taleb, Vox Day, and Perry Marshall.