Truth #2: Laughter is Key to a Healthy Marriage

When me and my wife first met each other, we first connected through laughter. Well, laughter and just a bit of sarcasm. One of the first things that attracted me to her was her smile and the way she laughed. She tells me she loved my dimples when I smiled. Throughout our relationship—which has had many ups and downs and challenges over the last 7 years—one thing that has made a key difference in our ability to move past hurts and fights and survive difficult circumstances is the ability to laugh together.

Here’s a real-life example that happened very early in our relationship:

I had planned a romantic evening in the city of Pittsburgh for the two of us that was to include a relaxed dinner at a local Italian restaurant, followed by attending a play at Heinz Hall. If I remember correctly, the play was the Nutcracker—which was 100% for her benefit. I’m a bit more adventurous than my wife, but we are both country kids who consider 4 cars following a school bus “heavy traffic.” If you’ve ever had the misfortune of driving in the great city of Pittsburgh, you know that its not exactly easy. There are three rivers that come together right in the middle of the city, so there are bridges and hills and curves and on- and off-ramps everywhere. You can often see where you want to go, but can’t find a way to get there. Oh, and there is ALWAYS construction somewhere. But being the romantic planner I am, I entered a relatively unfamiliar city with my trusty GPS on my dash. “Tom-tom will get us there just fine,” I said. “Just relax babe, it’ll be fine,” I told her. Apparently that particular GPS doesn’t like construction or tall buildings (big surprise) and combined with my increasingly flustered driving, led us on a scenic tour of the downtown area, then several neighborhoods, then back on the highway, then back downtown again. After about 45 minutes of frustration and we’ll call it “loud talking,” we finally reached our restaurant which was conveniently located next to a parking garage. We ate our dinner somewhat quickly, but still enjoyed it. As we left dinner to “simply” drive down the street to the play venue, our frustrations from earlier seemed to flair up again. I could see the playhouse, but among multiple lanes of traffic, pedestrians, buses and various signage, I was unable to easily locate a place to park. My lovely bride suggested I pull into the parking garage “right there,” she said. “Right where?,” I said. To which she responded, “right there, with the big red sign and the giant letters right in front of your face, that says PARK!” That is something we still bring up often whenever one of us doesn’t see something and the other one does and we still laugh about it.

Sometimes we start by laughing at each other, but it usually ends up with us laughing together.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t take things seriously or that we make light of our issues; we just know when our circumstances have us stressed to a point of blowup or breakdown we can opt for a third option by stepping back and laughing at ourselves. Just talking through our issues and struggles honestly while allowing our sense of humor to shine through has enabled us to relieve stress and continue to press on. Especially since having kids, our ability to laugh has been a life saver. I’m sure you’ve heard it said, “someday we’ll look back on this and laugh,” and it was likely in a situation that was stressful or frustrating or just ridiculous. Its important that we actually take that time with our spouse to look back and laugh—by doing this often, we can re-frame our minds and put our past (and current) circumstances in right perspective. The bottom line is this: if you want to have a good marriage, don’t take yourself too seriously and learn to laugh loud and often.

When was the last time you and your spouse laughed until you cried? Share your story in the Comments, on Facebook, or send me an email

*This post is the second installment in the series The Truth About Marriage

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Truth #1: The Wedding is NOT the most important day of your marriage, its just the beginning

When I proposed to my wife, everything seemed perfect. We were so much in love and so right for each other that I couldn’t wait to marry her. After only 8 months of dating, I finally popped the question to which I already knew the answer. But then something interesting and unexpected happened—as we started to actually plan the wedding our lives suddenly got stressful! We went from daydreaming about the adventures and babies we would have together, to arguing about flowers, guest lists, and the difference between the colors white and “ivory.” I wanted to be deeply involved in the wedding planning since I was going to be part of the ceremony too, but eventually I realized my wife had thought a lot more about the actual wedding day than I had and honestly, she cared more about it too. After several heated “discussions” we finally decided to relax and agree that if we ended up married at the end of the day we would be happy. At one point prior to this resolution, we were so caught up in the details and planning for the wedding, it started to damage or relationship—which of course was the whole point of the wedding in the first place. We temporarily got off track and we had some really bad fights. 12682856705_6a8f645bc6_b

I’ve seen this happen so often when couples get engaged and start wedding-planning; they start out happy and excited but get sidetracked and stressed out by the details of the day, forgetting that it is merely a drop in the ocean of their new life together.

Your wedding is NOT your marriage; it only signals the beginning of your marriage. Focusing too much on the wedding itself is like worrying so much about sweeping the runway before takeoff that you forget to fuel up the plane—if you’re not mindful of the big picture, it could cost you. So instead of freaking out about the first day of your marriage, why not focus and plan for the rest of the days. Men, let your bride-to-be do and wear what she wants (within reason) and ladies, just try to relax and remember that your marriage won’t be perfect, so your wedding doesn’t have to be either. This will hopefully help you realign your expectations and reduce your stress, keeping you from hurting each other before the big day. If you’re reading this and you’re already married, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Regardless of what your wedding day was actually like, remind yourself continually of why you got married in the first place—because you loved each other and wanted to commit to being together for life.

Do you have any good wedding-gone-wrong stories you would be willing to share? How about another truth that you have learned first-hand?

Let me know in the Comments, on Facebook, or by email

*Keep an eye out for more upcoming truth about marriage in the days and weeks to come!

Series: The truth about Marriage (intro)

Below is an introduction to my newest blog series I’ve been working on that I’m launching this week and hope you will find insightful and helpful in your own marriage.

My vision for this series is to share several truths about marriage that I have learned from my own experience as well as that of others. Our society has conditioned us to believe many things about marriage and relationships that simply are not true. On one end of the spectrum, there are the fairy tale romances of the silver screen that present marriage vaguely and often only as the culmination of a dramatic love story;
rarely do romantic comedies portray some of the harsh realities of life after the wedding day. In stark contrast to these whitewashed fairy-tale romances, much of the mainstream media and some of the entertainment industry present marriage as an antiquated practice that is not only unnecessary, but usually doomed to failure. This meta-narrative tells the story that marriage is where real romance goes to die; getting married has a way of ruining good relationships by putting undue stress and expectations on each partner thereby leading to relational self-destruction. Marriage is portrayed as a boring, unnecessary rite devoid of excitement, adventure, and passion. Many people these days seem to be more affected by the negative stereotypes of marriage than the positive, though often unrealistic, ones. Of course people are most deeply affected by their own experiences over and against popular culture or sound research, therefore, those whose parents have experienced bad marriages, divorce, or even a complete lack of marital commitment are far more likely to devalue marriage.

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This is a good example of a cute pic that doesn’t really depict reality–ask my wife to ride on my handlebars and see what reaction you get!

My aim here is to presuppose an alternative view of marriage that balances the realities of relationships with the tremendous personal and societal benefits of healthy marriages. With all the negative verbiage being circulated throughout our society about marriage, along with the increasing rates of divorce and cohabitation, its important for  you to know that there are still many happily married couples out there enjoying vibrant and fulfilling marriages that last. I know this is true, because I am in one of them.

Wherever you may be at this point in your life–happily or unhappily married, engaged, separated, dating, or single and thinking about marriage–I hope to share some insight over the course of a few posts that will at very least help you sort through some of the assumptions, confusing messages, or outright lies that are stuck in your head and heart.

I will be publishing posts that cover one to three truths each, trying to keep each brief and easy to digest and remember. I don’t have a set number of posts that will be written in this series and they most likely will not be in a particular order. I will try to present each post in a way that you will find value in reading it by itself, though I hope you will read several. Once again, I may add to this series as I feel necessary and any comments or suggestions for new truths are always welcome and appreciated.

If you’re like most people, January has you thinking about the new year ahead and you probably even made some resolutions or set some goals. For years I have done the same thing and have repeated much of the same without success. I have often felt like I start the new year with the best intentions and I’ve even made specific plans, set deadlines, and broken bigger goals into smaller ones. The problem is after a few months go by and life gets busy, my priorities tend to change. I find ways to use my time for things that may be good, but are not moving me closer to reaching my goals. One of the reasons goals don’t stick is because we don’t set ones we really care about. You may want to lose weight, eat healthier, or finally start that business or get a new job, but at your core you know that you’ll probably be just fine if you don’t do any of those things. And there’s always next year anyway, right?

Well I’m sure you can agree that setting an intention of becoming an overall better man is a worthy and achievable goal. However, pursuing this goal for one year is a bit short-sighted, as it takes time to really develop yourself and change your character and lifestyle. So why not set this goal for yourself over the next 20 years, repeating your intention and simply updating the details? Why not focus in on a few key areas in which you can improve yourself, then break them down into smaller, more specific goals for this year, for the next six months, and for the next 90 days, and all the way down to this week. The more specific you get, the easier it will be to track your results. But don’t only give yourself until the end of this year to become a better man; its an ongoing process that you have already begun—you simply need to keep moving forward.

Though your own goals and intentions should be specific and personal to you, here are 3 steps you can take this week to become an increasingly better man over time.

Reflect

On your past year, on your past five years, on your whole life…look back at the way you have lived, the relationships and jobs you’ve had and the kind of man you have been. Take an honest self-assessment and determine what is broken so you know where to start your work. But don’t just fall into the trap of self-loathing and beat yourself up over every mistake you made or bad habit you continued; look at the positive things, those things you did right that you take for granted. Go ahead and make a pros and cons list about yourself if want to see it all out on paper (I process things well this way). But don’t forget to ask yourself the why question: why did I do that? What were the circumstances, influences, or attitudes that led me to taking that action, quitting that job, or starting that habit? Remember to look at your life from all angles, trying to identify your core motivations and influences for the man you are now.

Find a good role model

I don’t know what your relationship is like with your father, maybe its good, maybe its terrible, or maybe you’ve never even met him. Men typically become like their fathers, as they have a tremendous influence in their lives for better or worse. Although fathers are supposed to be the best role models for their kids and especially their sons, they often miss the mark. Whatever your story with your father may be, you need to have at least one good role model of the kind of man you would like to become. If your dad is not one of those men, then determine clearly for yourself why he is not and find someone who is. Ideally you could find a friend or mentor who you could meet with in person and talk to about your past and your desires for the future. At very least, you need to read good books, listen to podcasts or sermons and do everything you can to soak up the wisdom and guidance of great men. Some of my favorites are pastor Chip Ingram (Living on the Edge) and Jim Daly at Focus on the Family, among many others. Many resources you can get for free or a very reasonable cost, but they deliver a tremendous amount of wisdom and value. The truth is if you don’t have a clear picture of the kind of man you want to be, you won’t ever make it there.

Find accountability

If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. Yet I cannot stress enough the importance of accountability among men—this is the real key to not only reaching goals, but living a life of integrity. You must find someone who is willing to ask you the tough questions without worrying about your feelings, who will hold you accountable to the boundaries, values, and goals to which you have committed. You must share with them the desires and fears of your heart, verbalizing not only what you want to do, but where your present weaknesses are at the moment. This is especially tough for men to do; guys don’t usually sit around talking about their fears, hopes and dreams, past hurts, or their current feelings about their identity. This is definitely a learned behavior and comes with time and practice, along with trusted friendship. But if you really don’t want to share your heart and your issues with other men, I have to ask why not? What exactly do you fear? That the other guy will judge you or look down on you, gossip about you, or otherwise hurt you? This type of thing is obviously possible, but from what I have seen it’s not likely. And even if you do get burned by some jerk who you thought you could trust, so what? You’re man enough to take a few bumps and bruises along the way, aren’t you? What if you do find a meaningful friendship that offers real accountability? It could literally change your life and have a ripple effect in your family tree, positively influencing the lives of your wife, children, and even grandchildren.

No matter what day of the week you’re reading this, you can take these 3 steps within the next 7 days and be well on your way to becoming a better man. Take 15 minutes tonight to dedicate to some quiet, uninterrupted reflection on who you are now and how you got here and don’t be afraid to jot down a few notes. Lay out a few key areas you need to focus on this year and think of very practical goals. Tomorrow take a few minutes to identify one or a couple potential mentors or role models in your life and contact them this week if possible. Download a few podcasts or buy a book. Get accountable—call or text a friend or acquaintance whom you respect and know has some wisdom to offer. This guy doesn’t have to be a pastor, a coach, a mentor, or even older than you; he should simply be someone you can have honest conversations with on a regular basis.

What are other ways in which you want to become a better man this week/year/next 5 years?

I would LOVE to hear from you in the Comments, on Facebook, or by Email.

Also, if you want some more direction on where to look for good resources, or you want me to help you out with personal accountability, let me know and I’d be glad to help (send me an email or PM if you don’t want it to be public).

Don’t forget to check out some of my other posts about manhood, purpose, and other topics on tylerjbrooks.com/blog 

Lessons in online etiquette: 5 ways to avoid being a cyber-jerk

Placeholder ImageThe rise of the Internet and social media channels have forever changed our culture. The world has become so much smaller and more accessible that people can connect and share ideas and knowledge easier than ever before in history. But along with great opportunity comes great responsibility. Most people I know interact online on a daily basis to some extent, reading and responding to Facebook posts, news articles, blogs, photo memes, etc. Wherever you may spend your time online, if you want to avoid being perceived as a jerk (or something worse) I believe it’s important for you to know and practice a few rules.

1. If you don’t have the time to read a post or article in its entirety, you shouldn’t take the time to leave a comment 
It never ceases to amaze me at how many people will only read the headlines or the first couple of paragraphs of an article before posting a critical comment. I read a comment last week on an article where the commenter actually said he didn’t read past the point with which he disagreed, but HAD to stop and comment. What he disagreed with was only a minor point that really had no bearing on the entire theme of the article…but he doesn’t know because he didn’t bother reading past the two sentences he didn’t like. I’ve had comments on my blog posts from people who clearly didn’t read beyond the first paragraph, yet felt compelled to share how wrong and misguided I was in my thinking. I love constructive criticism and civil arguments, but don’t be a jerk by reading only the first paragraph before picking a fight or making a definitive statement about my entire identity.

2. If you wouldn’t say it to the person’s face, don’t write it online 

I don’t know why this one seems to be so hard for people to understand. It’s like people don’t realize they are talking to and influencing other ACTUAL human beings when they converse online. If you were at a coffee shop talking to me face to face, would you still be so harsh and critical in your comments about my viewpoint? Remember that even when you disagree with a person’s ideas or actions, they are still a person who deserves to be treated with at least a minimal amount of respect. Online disrespect = disrespect in real life

3. Don’t be afraid to do some research before sharing an article about a controversial topic 

If you can’t believe everything you see on TV then you certainly can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. A lot of the time information is shared for the sake of being sensational and getting attention, whether or not it’s true or accurate. When you read a headline or a meme and immediately share it, you may be passing along bad information. It only takes a minute to do a little research and find some other reputable sources that back up a particular claim. If it’s hard to find a good source that accomplishes this, that’s a good indication that the story or “facts” might be bogus. We have a tremendous wealth of information at our fingertips–we just need to learn how to use it effectively.

4. Be sensitive to the fact that most people online don’t actually care about your opinion 

Do you know how many people have Facebook accounts, Email, or Internet access? I don’t know those numbers, but I know it’s astronomical. We’re talking multiple millions of people, logging on to thousands upon thousands of sites, reading billions of words around the clock. The Internet may have made our world feel smaller, but it’s still huge! Even someone with an online following of 100,000 has still only captured the attention of a very small percentage of the population.  My point is that it’s important to remember that while a few people may value and want to hear your opinion on certain matters, most won’t. And that’s OK. That’s why we collect Facebook friends and a following because those are the people saying they are more likely to be interested or care about what you’ve got going on. So when you comment on a stranger’s post and they respond with an insult or just ignore you, don’t be surprised. It’s probably not personal anyway. And try not to be the person who posts a rant or controversial statement with the disclaimer that you don’t want to start an argument and you ‘just HAVE to say…” something you know people will disagree with.   The truth is, you don’t actually have to say anything. I know it feels good to make your voice heard, but it’s not good when you do it in such a way to steamroll others and dismiss the opportunity to have a conversation.

5. Keep everything in the right perspective 

The bottom line when it comes to the Internet and social media is that it’s awesome only when it’s used well. All too often people and relationships are damaged because of the misuse of these powerful tools. At the end of the day, try to step back and look at the big picture of life, both on- and offline. The Internet is only one way to interact with the world and shouldn’t be your ONLY way. Don’t forget to have some personal conversations from time to time that are actually in-person. Don’t hurt a friend or lose a job or even a spouse because of something you did online. If you need to have a difficult conversation with someone in your life, please talk to them in person or on the phone. Your Facebook feed is not the place to argue with family members or tell someone what you really think of them. I know it happens all the time, but it shouldn’t. Keep it all in perspective and do what’s right.

Have other rules or tips for how we should communicate online? Let me know in the comments, on Facebook, or by email.

This article appeared first on tylerjbrooks.com

How REAL manhood has been hijacked and what you can do about it

Heading into 2017, it is increasingly clear to me that there is a very real problem in our culture when it comes to manhood. By and large, men have ceased to be men (and I’m not just talking about Bruce Jenner). Households with absentee fathers are an epidemic; men use and abuse women, abandon their own children, and get upset when a court makes them pay child support. The level of arrogance and entitlement among young men today is staggering; most expect something for nothing and want to benefit from the labor of others while doing little to no actual work themselves. Able-bodied men are all too often given handouts and allowed to believe the lie that society at-large owes them something. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you probably know someone who fits this description. And if you’ve had to work hard to get where you are, men like that probably drive you crazy. But the degradation of manhood goes even deeper than work habits or bad attitudes; it cuts to the core of a man’s identity and has far-reaching influence throughout all classes of men.

I believe there are 4 main areas of a man’s life in which this trend is most evident and pervasive:

Work   Men used to go to work every day, work through pain and sickness, in harsh conditions and for people who cared little about their safety and well-being. They descended into coal mines, worked on farms, in factories, rail yards and hundreds of other places that usually offered difficult and dangerous work. Even if the job wasn’t dangerous, most men would show up on time, day-after-day and year-after-year for decades, thankful to have a steady job that allowed them the ability to provide for their families. If they didn’t particularly like their job, that was fine—if a better one came along they may consider it, but company loyalty was the norm. But somewhere along the way, showing up every day, doing your job and going home tired but thankful became the exception rather than the rule. I’m sure your grandfather didn’t always love his job and probably knew some men who were bad employees, but for the most part, you went to work, worked hard and honest and thanked your employer for the opportunity. Times have certainly changed since then and so has the job market, but so have the men. I believe there are many more men today who either won’t go to work at all, show up to work and complain the whole time, or those who have no idea what company loyalty looks like. Often what I see are men who have an allergy to overtime and always have a chip on their shoulders, or men who are workaholics at the expense of their families and personal lives.

The bottom line: Men were created to work and work is supposed to be creative and good and fulfilling. However, your day job is not always going to be easy or be the fulfillment of your dreams; but it can help you provide for your family and work toward your dreams and goals if you let it. Go to work every day, do your job well and with a good attitude and be thankful for the opportunity. If you don’t like your work, take steps now that will allow you move toward doing work you love later. Remember that no one owes you a thing—even if you have a college degree—and if you want something really worth having you’re going to have to work for it.

Sexuality Men are sexual beings because they are human beings. We were created in a certain way for a certain purpose—and this design is good and pure. But when I look around at the young “men” of my generation and see how they use their God-given sexuality, I am astounded and ashamed to even be classified in the same category. Young men take something that was created to be holy, beautiful, and unifying between a real man and his wife and use it merely as a means to selfish gain; they use a woman as if she is a tool to complete a task rather than a person. I know the male sex drive is generally more active than the female counterpart, but it doesn’t mean we need more sex, more often, with more women; it simply means we need to work harder at loving our wives and making them feel safe and loved—if we get this right, better sex is bound to follow. Additionally, sex has no place outside of marriage—not with single men and single women, or married men with women who are not their wives. It is a union between one man and one woman in a life-long marriage commitment; anything else is a counterfeit deviation and misses the mark.

The bottom line: If you are a man who wants to be a REAL man, you must start to believe that you are more than just a sexual being—you are a dynamic, complex and multi-faceted human being who was created for so much more than just sex. Forget what pop culture says about sex because its wrong—it goes hand-in-hand with marriage and if you think otherwise, you’re really missing out. Wherever you are now, commit yourself to seeking out and living out the true design and purpose of sex.

Marriage & Relationships The greatest relational accomplishment a man can achieve is finding a good woman and convincing her to marry him. The only thing better than falling in love and getting married is figuring out how to make it last a lifetime. When it comes to marital commitment and faithfulness, men are epic failures. I know ladies play a significant part in this area, but men are called to love their wives passionately, sacrificially, and with unwavering commitment. Far too many men have fallen because of their pride, their anger, or their lack of self-control. Sexual temptations often get men derailed from the right track in their marriages; although their own arrogance is often the true culprit. Men need to stop being so lazy and apathetic about their marriages and step up to the plate. We need to take our rightful positions in our marriages, in our homes, and in our communities and swing for the fences.

The bottom line: If you love a good woman but you’re afraid to get married because it will tie you down, its time to get over it, man up and marry-up—you’ll be a better man for it. If you’re already married—no matter for how long—count your blessings and love your wife with reckless abandon, putting her needs and desires and dreams before your own, and trust that if you first love and lead her well, she will not let it go unnoticed for long.

Parenting When did it become a feminine attribute to be a good parent? Why is it that men are usually expected to do very little when it comes to parenting their children, while women are expected to do approximately 95% of the day-to-day parenting tasks? The rise of feminism has contributed significantly to this problem, as much of society has been duped into believing that women are in fact superior to men and should be treated as such. When a woman has children in 2017 America, she is often confronted with the pressure to choose between caring for her children most of their waking and sleeping hours by being a stay-at-home mom, or virtually abandoning them to pursue her career (or at least that’s what she feels like). They are told they not only can, but should be able to do it all and do it well, whereas men are led to believe all they have to do is be a sperm donor who provides a paycheck. Young men and women are usually influenced strongly by their own fathers and tend to repeat their mistakes; that is why it’s vitally important for men to step up in this area of their lives as they hold the key to their children’s confidence, sense of security, and how well they can adapt to the world around them as they grow up. Don’t get me wrong, being a dad is tough and challenging, but real men rise to meet their challenges—they don’t run from them or let them fall on the shoulders of others.

The Bottom line: If you’re a man who has children then you’re technically a father; but it takes much more effort to really be a dad. Show up for your kids, lead them well, and put to death the notion that parenting is primarily a mom’s responsibility. Research shows that parenting is done best within the bounds of a healthy marriage by two people working as a team. Step up to your calling as Dad.

I’m sure you can think of several other ways in which men don’t act like men anymore—share some of them with me in the Comments below, on Facebook, or shoot me an email.

*Look for further development of this topic to come on tylerjbrooks.com

What does it mean to be a MAN?

Is manhood defined simply by your anatomy, your age or physical maturity, or your behavior? Or is it more about what kind of work you do, how much money or power you possess, or how much responsibility or confidence you have? We live in a time and a culture (in the U.S. at least) where the definition of what it means to be a man has been tragically confused. As boys grow up they are usually taught to be nice, to sit down in class at school, to be quiet, and to be sweet and gentle and follow all the rules all of the time. So for most young boys, they are essentially expected to act like nice little girls. As they grow, most learn to follow the rules to stay out of trouble, but this facade is never who they really are. What they desire with all their hearts is to run outside, to play, to scream, to rough-house, to climb trees and play in dirt and mud and capture small creatures and kill bugs and, did I mention run and scream? My almost-five-year-old son is a perfect example of this–he is the definition of high-energy, adventurous, fearless boyhood. On a daily basis, he runs, jumps, climbs, screams, fights, finds things he can use to hit other things, gets dirty and usually ends up hurting himself, someone else, or breaking something. I know some would try to diagnose him with some disease or disorder that explains his behavior, but I wouldn’t buy it. My son is not abnormal or hyper-active, nor does he have any deficits with they exception of listening to what he is told the first time. My son is a normal little boy. And he is on his way to growing up into a man. At this point in his life, he is learning and growing at an incredible rate that will likely be unmatched throughout the rest of his life. He is like a sponge soaking up all the information and knowledge around him. However, one thing he has not yet mastered is actually caring about what other people think. Sure, he doesn’t really want to disappoint his parents, but his main aim is avoiding punishment while doing what he wants. He doesn’t care if his misbehavior in public places embarrasses his mom and infuriates his dad, he just responds to circumstances the way he feels without fear of the possible repercussions. Although I do sincerely hope his behavior and self-control will continually improve over time, I cannot help but admire his unwavering commitment to doing things his way. I fear that as he gets older, like so many other boys, he will learn to withhold his true emotions, squelch his ideas and desires, and learn to follow along with the crowd and just be nice. Conforming to societal norms is not always bad; obviously learning to control things like anger, greed, and lust are good for individuals and society. However, holding back boys from being boys for generations leads to men who don’t know how to really be men.

In my next post, I’ll break down ways in which REAL manhood has been hijacked in modern culture and what you can do to take steps toward reclaiming your own manhood.

I would love to hear feedback from readers…what do you think it means to be a man?

Let me know it comments or on Facebook.

Just a quick thought for today:

Instead of always asking, “what is my purpose,” we should instead ask “in light of my purpose, what should I spend my time doing?” It’s too easy to do nothing meaningful while we wait to discover what we anticipate will be our perfect purpose. If my purpose is to love God and love others, I should be seeking out ways that I can most effectively do that. Stop asking “what” and start asking “how” and “why”. As a Christian, I’ve believed that loving God and others is my purpose, but I’ve also waited for something more specific before taking action. I love to write and I’m good at it, so I should write in such a way that loves God and loves others. It doesn’t matter so much what I write or which format I choose or whether or not I make a living writing, but it matters why I write. In the same way, when I go to work and do something I’m not passionate about, I can still do it with purpose and in a way that shows that I love God and love others. When I work at pursuing excellence, honesty, and humility in my job and in my relationships, I am already living out my purpose. 

Why its OK to be unhappy sometimes…

What is the purpose of life?

This is a question many people have asked throughout human history and have come up with many varied answers. For some, its about achieving inner peace and tranquility, for others its about gaining power and wealth, and for many, its all about pursuing personal happiness and contentment. In the U.S, its apparent that the pursuit of happiness is at the top of most people’s list of how to live life. You need to look further than the advertising industry to see that products are marketed in such a way that they promise a little piece of happiness to the consumer. These products will make you look younger, help you lose weight, whiten your teeth, give you more energy, improve your performance in everything—and the list goes on infinitely. Effective marketing taps into the consumer’s desire for happiness and cleverly presents how a specific product or service fits into achieving that goal. Now, I’m not suggesting that all marketing is wrong or deceptive, but when you consider the staggering amount of consumer debt (credit cards, cars, etc) in this nation its easy to see that something is broken. The marketing and advertising business is doing well, but its the beliefs and goals of the individual that are broken. But there’s a lot more at stake than just money.

When happiness makes you un-happy

When happiness is elevated to the level of being your life’s purpose, it has a tendency to end up making you miserable. Here is what I mean: whenever you chose which job to take or which college to attend or what to study, you probably asked the question “what will make me happy?” Or maybe you just asked “which job pays the most?” or “which college will get me the best job?” or “what area of study interests me the most?” These were good questions to ask, but ultimately they came down to the same question of happiness—they presupposed that the higher paying or “better” job would make you happy, or even studying a specific area would lead to contentment. However, if you have lived life for a while you probably already realize that jobs, money, and college degrees might make you happy but they don’t keep you happy for long. There’s always something wrong, some deficiency, some yearning for more or different. We take jobs like we’re ordering at McDonald’s—we look at the menu, consider what we’re in the mood for and what special deals are being offered and pick something. After all, if we don’t like what we picked we can just get something different next time. In the US people change jobs and even careers more times throughout their working lives than ever before in our history. But it gets worse. We choose friends and even spouses based upon what will make me happy and end up using people for our own benefit over and against meeting their needs. If you need evidence, just look at the divorce rate in our country, domestic abuse, and other relational struggles. There are millions of unhappy people disappointed that someone else doesn’t make them happy all the time. My point is when we live our lives in such a way that our goal of being happy drives everything from our smallest to our biggest decisions, we end up being self-centered, unfulfilled, and unhappy people.

The Alternative

In the film The Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith portrays the real Chris Gardener, a single dad down on his luck who decides to take an unpaid internship at a stock brokerage firm in 1980s San Francisco. Throughout the movie, Chris struggles to make enough money to buy food for him and his young son, who eventually get evicted from their apartment and spend several nights in homeless shelters and even one in a subway restroom.

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Scene from the film, The Pursuit of Happyness. image via storypick.com 

If you’ve ever seen the film, you know things turn out well for Chris and his son financially because he excelled in his internship and was rewarded with a well-paying job. Chris gives his commentary at various points while telling his story, talking about the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He makes the observation that the writer of these words must have known that happiness is not guaranteed and people would merely have the right to pursue it, not necessarily achieve it. As the story unfolds, we see a man who becomes increasingly desperate, visibly stressed and exhausted, and by all definitions unhappy.

My purpose in sharing a little bit about Chris Gardener is to demonstrate how personal sacrifice for the sake of another leads to something more than happiness. Self-giving love is far more important and lasting than any form of happiness. When life got really tough, Chris’ girlfriend left him and their son in pursuit of her own happiness. Regardless of what she may have found, she wasn’t there to experience the joy that came as a result of Chris’ perseverance. The purpose of life isn’t to try to be happy; its to love and be loved. To love God and love others is the greatest purpose to which we can aspire and the only one that will ultimately bring us lasting joy—in addition to plenty of real happiness.

So whenever you feel a sense of happiness or the sting of disappointment, remember the true purpose of your life is found in the love you give to others more than the happiness you may or may not experience in this moment. Whether its in relation to your job, your family relationships, or your stuff, sometimes its OK to be unhappy on your path to serving a greater purpose.

When was a time you were on the receiving end of someone’s self-sacrifice? 

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