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.
If you read Genesis 1 carefully, you’ll notice a pattern that has the power to change your life.
I’ve bolded the pattern below to make it more apparent:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was[a] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the third day.
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all[b] the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
The climax of the story is the creation of man.
First we learn what God can do… then we learn that man was created like God. Specifically, man has the power to:
- Declare a vision
- Make it happen
- Determine when something is “good”
- Define and contrast what you’ve created (what’s its purpose? how is it different?)
As a man, an image-bearer of God, you have the power to create your own reality. This is the source of your power if only you can be persuaded of its truth and persevere in your mission.
Being the alpha male requires confidence. And confidence is largely derived from 3 personal advantages:
- Accurate thinking
- Good looks
Reading challenging books by people smarter than you makes you think more accurately than 99% of the population.
Intense physical training makes you look better than 99% of the population.
Regular writing (or sales or public speaking) makes you communicate more clearly and persuasively than 99% of the population.
You don’t have to trick yourself to be confident when you genuinely are superior to 99% of all other men.