Love is a Choice

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.”

(1 Corinthians 13:1-7 MSG)

When I read what the Bible says about love, I am always lead to the same conclusion: love is a choice. 

After reading the four gospels recently, I did not come away with the idea that Jesus just fell in love with His followers because they were so wonderful and charming. As a matter of fact, many followers were only enchanted by His miracles and what they thought He could do for them. Most of the tremendous crowds that clamored to hear His teaching did nothing to love Him in return. Even His closest friends and most devoted followers continually doubted Him and failed to understand the important things He was trying to tell them. When He was betrayed by His friend Judas and arrested, all of His disciples deserted Him. Peter even denied knowing Him three times. Jesus was beaten, tortured, and brutally executed on a cross while His friends and followers looked on. Yet He loved them through it all. 

Not only did He love His followers, but He also loved His enemies. In His tremendous suffering on the cross, Jesus went as far as praying for them saying, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34 MSG). Jesus willingly died on the cross to save His friends from the power of sin and death and give them the opportunity for eternal life.

Everyone knows Jesus was (and still is) awesome at this whole sacrificial love idea. But He is Jesus, after all, so that is to be expected. 

But what about the rest of us? 

Can we really love like that? 

Do we have the capacity to truly love others even when they don’t deserve it, don’t want it, or don’t accept it?

If we take a look at our world’s cultures, it’s not difficult to see that humans are doing a pretty terrible job at loving each other well. From family feuds and domestic violence to sex trafficking and international terrorism, people are clearly better and more practiced at hate than they are at love. 

Even within the Christian culture we can see many examples of selfish and destructive behaviors that obviously place “me” above all others, bringing grief to the heart of God. It seems to me that self-focus and general apathy toward others are the most pervasive and subtly destructive attributes of this love-lacking culture.

Marriages, which are intended to be life-long covenant relationships, are flippantly abandoned in the name of self-preservation. 

Nationally, somewhere around 40-50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Subsequent remarriages have an even higher rate of failure. 

Christian marriages tend to fail just as badly as that of other non-Christian marriages. But how can this be? How can someone who has believed in Jesus as their savior and received the gift of the Holy Spirit actually break their vows and give up on their marriage?

 It’s not necessarily lack of faith or wrong beliefs about God that allow this to happen. Although there are numerous reasons people cite for getting divorced, I believe they all essentially come down to one common cause: choosing not to love. 

I know that may seem oversimplified, but if you think about it, how many broken marriages could have been saved if both partners chose to simply love each other unconditionally? I am not saying that nagging wives, unappreciative husbands, liars, and cheaters don’t deserve to be punished and alone. They do deserve the consequences of their actions. But so do you and me

Love, as Jesus gives, does not simply return to someone what their actions deserve; a husband who really loves gives when he doesn’t receive, and a wife shows appreciation when she is not appreciated. 

True love holds on when all others would have already let go. 

My point is this: love is a choice. We must all choose love every day, in every circumstance, in every argument, in every relationship. Of course we will fail at times, but we must persevere.

Those of us who are married are called to love our spouses unconditionally and forever. But we are not called to do it alone; we are given God’s Holy Spirit who fills us and empowers us to live holy lives. 

Love is a choice that we can really only make when we first choose to surrender ourselves to God and rely on Him to sustain us. 
What are some practical ways you choose to love your spouse? To love others?
Please share your thoughts and comments on Facebook or in the Comments section below.

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Forgiven: Living in response to the Incredibly Simple Gospel

Last month I spoke on the topic of forgiveness and the simplicity of the Gospel at Marion Presbyterian Church. Below is the link to the audio file if you would like to hear my message in its entirety.

 

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9TvZDsr-e05R0xzR2k5ZFJTWkU

How to parent more effectively with less guilt: dealing with anger as a Christian parent

“That’s it, go to your room,” I said. “No!” said my four-year-old son.

I quickly responded, “Yes! Go to your room right now! One…two…”

“Nooooo! I hate you!” he shouted back.

As I quickly reached my boiling point, I threw him up onto my shoulder and carried him back the hallway to his room, kicking and screaming the whole time.

I put him down not so gently on his bed and told him he needed to stay in his room until he could calm down and improve his behavior. To this he responded with an ear-drum-blowing scream that I’m pretty sure broke some glass. I left the room quickly and slammed the door.

As I rejoined my wife in our living room, we talked over his screaming and crying saying things like, “I don’t know what else to do; I don’t know why he gets like this,” and “I shouldn’t have lost my temper like that but he just makes me so mad.”

This scenario plays out often in my house. My son misbehaves then throws a tantrum when he is corrected, then me or my wife lose our temper and “talk” to him louder than we should, then we feel guilty for being “mean” to him. We try to be patient and reasonable; we try to give him second and third and fourth chances; we even try explaining consequences to him clearly and giving him choices. But often he chooses to continue misbehaving, being defiant, or just completely ignoring correction. He pushes our buttons so effectively that our anger can go from “0 to 60” almost immediately. Of course our anger blows up more quickly when we are exhausted, which is most of the time.

The Bible says, “in your anger, do not sin.” So experiencing the emotion of anger is not in itself wrong or sinful; however, it can easily lead to sin if we let it. As a Christian parent, where is this line? And how do we avoid crossing it in the heat of the moment?

When my son screams at me I get really irritated; when he ignores my correction I get mad; when he slaps my wife in the face I get livid. I don’t think its wrong for me to feel these various degrees of anger or even to act on them.

It is wrong for a child to rebel against his parents, to ignore correction, and certainly to slap his own mother at any age.

I should respond to my sons misbehavior with discipline and teach him to obey his parents.

I should punish him, as well as instruct and encourage him.

But when I respond to his screaming with louder screaming, or when I follow up his slap with another slap or make ridiculous threats and do things just to hurt him back, I cross that line into sin.

Whenever I react out of anger, I let my emotions in that moment determine my actions. Unfortunately, my emotions don’t often make good decisions that are consistent with what I believe and the kind of parent I want to be. If I respond to my son’s sin with more sin, how can I expect him to ever grow or change for the better?

If you’re like me and my wife, you need to learn to put some process into place to avoid this vicious cycle of misbehavior, angry blowups, and lingering guilt. Although we are still very much in the trenches, I believe there are at least 3 things we can do now to help us parent more effectively with less guilt.

  1. Plan Ahead

    I once heard the definition of stress is what happens when you experience the difference between your expectations and your outcomes. So to reduce stress, you need to modify one of these. If you expect your child to behave perfectly and follow all of your rules, I’m sure you will be disappointed every time. But expecting misbehavior and deciding in advance what your response will be can help you avoid an angry blowup. Setting clear rules and communicating expectations to our kids also needs to be a part of the plan.

  2. Act, don’t React

    My son told me that it makes him really mad when we use “mean words” or yell at him. This usually happens in response to his use of mean words and yelling. Its easy to react to another person in the same manner they have acted toward you. However, if we follow the rule that we should treat others how we want to be treated, we won’t simply spit back the same disrespect they throw at us. Especially with our kids, we need to focus on leading and teaching them what it looks like to live this way, showing them that its possible to respond in a loving way even when we’re angry.

  3. Debrief well after the fight

    Even when you make a plan, communicate expectations, and try your best to respond instead of just react in anger, there will still be times when you just lose it. You will say and do things you’re not proud of and you know are not helpful to your kids. But all is not lost, because you still have the chance to talk about the fight after its over. Once the dust settles and the smoke clears, make sure to have a follow-up conversation in which you apologize for losing your cool and give your child the opportunity to both apologize and be forgiven. As parents, we can’t have a big screaming fight with our kids, punish them, then just pretend it didn’t happen and assume everything will automatically be smoothed over.

 

QUESTION: What other ways have you found to parent more effectively with less guilt? I would love to hear your response in the Comments, on Facebook, or you can send me an email

Other articles you might like:

 Why is parenting so hard?

For the Weary…and the Busy

The Truth About Marriage (series)

 

This article appeared first on tylerjbrooks.com 

 

 

Truth #5: Sometimes the truth hurts, but its necessary

Have you ever had someone tell you the truth? Of course you have, most of the time people tell you the truth, right? But do they always tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I’m sure you can remember a time when someone told you something about yourself you didn’t like and you probably responded with disbelief and defensiveness.

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” you said. “She thinks I’m bad, but she needs to take a look in the mirror,” you responded.

Or maybe you admitted to some of your wrongdoing, but minimized it by comparing yourself to someone worse.

You may have justified yourself saying something like, “I might gossip now and then, but at least I know when to keep my mouth shut.”

Developing accurate self-awareness and being able to hear criticism constructively is difficult and a skill that takes time and humility to develop. However, this one skill is perhaps the most important in determining the quality and depth of our relationships. This is especially true within marriage.

Criticism is often one of the most damaging behaviors in a marriage. One or both spouses can develop a critical spirit toward the other, constantly finding something wrong and vocalizing their disapproval or irritation. When left unchecked and unchanged, this negative attitude will drive a wedge between two people who otherwise love each other.

If you’re like me, being unfairly critical is your default mode. And getting defensive when someone criticizes you comes naturally.

Something about me you should probably know is that I’m a natural talker—I’ve been endowed with the gift of gab and I am what psychologists would call highly verbal. I am one of those men who actually talks more than his wife. But she loves it—at least most of the time.

Early on in our marriage, we experienced a lot of change—job changes, having a baby, and moving several times—and I would usually over-analyze every decision I made or even thought about making. I was full of ideas and hope, but also overwhelmed by fear of the unknown. As a result, I would often talk to my wife about everything that was on my mind and try to process my thoughts out loud. Although she appreciated my willingness to share my heart and include her in my thought-process, she would eventually get worn out by my incessant and often unfocused talking.

On more than one occasion she tried to tell me in a loving way that I talked too much and got off track too easily. This made it difficult for her to follow and she felt like I would make my point, then go down another trail and circle back to the same point once again. This is also called “beating a dead horse.”

Initially, when I heard my beautiful bride criticizing my communication style I was devastated and offended. So naturally I had to verbalize my disgust, explaining in detail how I got that way, why I talked so much, and how it bothered me that she didn’t care enough to listen to everything I had to say.

A simple observation and a little constructive criticism from the person I love most in the world easily turned into a fight when I tried to defend myself first before really considering the truth of her words.

By the grace of God I was eventually able to develop the skill of editing my words (at least a little bit) to boil down my thoughts into smaller, more focused discussion. My wife feels more appreciated when I temper my monologues to allow more room for her voice to be heard. Asking questions and really making an effort to listen to her responses has made a huge difference in our communication and our marriage. This would not have happened if my wife didn’t take the time to tell me the truth, even when she knew it would initially hurt my feelings.

Has your spouse ever told you a difficult truth you didn’t want to hear? Is there something your spouse is telling you now that has an element of truth you need to listen to?

Have any other TRUTHS ABOUT MARRIAGE you’ve learned?

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments, on Facebook, or via Email.

This article is an installment in a series The Truth About Marriage. Be sure to check out the rest of it by clicking below.

Series: The truth about Marriage (intro)

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

Truth #2: Laughter is Key to a Healthy Marriage

Truth #3: You SHOULD argue + 3 ways to argue well

Truth #4: Having kids will NOT make you a happy couple

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Truth #4: Having kids will NOT make you a happy couple

I’ve heard some people (mostly women) say they got pregnant in part because they thought having kids together would improve their marriage. She thinks, “having a baby will be so wonderful and amazing that it will bring us closer together and the problems and poor communication we have will simply fade away in the light of the beautiful little life we created.” Or something to that effect.

Although I’ll admit this is a nice thought, it is completely wrong. Having a child together as a married couple is an incredible experience that will make you marvel at the miracle of life and seeing your spouse as a parent is definitely attractive—at least initially.

But the truth is children have an uncanny way of bringing out both the best and the worst in us.

Listen men, at one time—even within the same hour—your beautiful wife can be the most loving, kind, gentle mommy that you’ve ever seen and then suddenly have to bust out her mean “Batman voice” to get your crazy 4-year old’s attention. Maybe you call it something else in your house, but whatever name you choose doesn’t matter; as a grown man it will still give you chills.

Women, your husband will be transformed from your strong sexy man into a baby-holding, puke-catching, I’m-glad-you’re-home-here’s-your-kid, silly-dancing, fart-noise-making, monkey-face entertainer-man. You will still tell him you can’t wait until he gets home, but it will be for much less romantic reasons. You will marvel at his uncanny ability to sleep through even the loudest of crying-child sounds, to your disgust.

Some days will be worse than others, but especially when your children are young neither of you will be the best version of yourselves. But if you survive parenthood, you will end up better people for it.

Its kind of like having a near-death experience but not dying; your life flashes before your eyes and you suddenly realize all you used to have that you took for granted and swear to change for the better.

The truth is, I love having kids. They are amazing and some days I can’t believe I get to be their dad and have the privilege of helping them grow up. I don’t take this position of responsibility lightly and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

But having kids has put significantly more stress on our marriage, especially since having a second one.

My son is almost five and my daughter will turn two in a few months and sometimes the challenges of parenting are almost too much to handle. Sometimes it feels like I traded in my wife for a mommy instead; but that’s why I have to work to remind myself and my wife that we are still more than just parents. Of course, parenting is still relatively new to us and our kids occupy much of our time and thoughts, but that’s not all we are meant to be.

It takes consistent, intentional work to make time for each other in the midst of the chaos of parenting to just be together as husband and wife. It will take effort, planning, and even a little bit of money, but you can maintain and even improve your marriage after having children. But remember that its not automatic; parenthood can knock you down and tear you apart as a couple only if you let it.

Question: How can couples with young kids find ways to spend time together as a couple?

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below, on Facebook, or send me an email.

This post is an installment in the series The Truth About Marriage. To read more, start here

Truth #3: You SHOULD argue + 3 ways to argue well

Have you ever met someone who claims they never argue with their spouse? Not even when they’re tired or sick or angry? They just get along so well that they never have disagreements.

There’s a scientific term for these couples: liars.

They are either lying—because they do in fact argue but they don’t want you to know that—or one of them is so apathetic about their relationship they don’t care enough to argue.

The truth is if you are married to a human being you will have arguments. They may not all be screaming, crying fights, but disagreements will happen. Differences in your opinions, preferences, and desires—which will change over time—will inevitably lead to arguments.

If you want to have a healthy and satisfying marriage, you SHOULD argue with your spouse.

Arguments don’t always have to turn into fights. You don’t always have to escalate a discussion into a hyper-emotional blowup.

You don’t have to bring up past hurts and failures.

You don’t have to hurt each other with your words.

And you don’t have to win.

Early on in our marriage, my wife and I would often fall into the trap of having arguments late at night. We have always talked to each other a lot and that has been a strength of our marriage; but when you’re highly verbal (like myself) its easy to just sort of stumble into an argument and say whatever comes to mind at the moment.

After allowing our emotions to get the best of us and saying things we didn’t mean, I would push to find some form of final resolution. Finally my wife would say, “can we please just go to sleep and talk about this tomorrow?!” It took me a while, but I finally learned to put the argument on hold and shut my mouth until morning. Sometimes this is still a struggle, but realizing that arguments don’t have to be fully resolved in the same session (or after 9pm) has helped us avoid a lot of hurt.

If you want to make arguments work for instead of against your marriage, you need to learn to argue well.

Here are 3 ways to argue well you can start using today:

  1. Avoid using exaggerated words like “always” and “never”

    You’ve probably heard this one before, but its easy to fall into this trap. Our words matter, especially when speaking to the people closest to us. Words like these always set us up to say something untrue and they never help resolve an argument.

  1. Don’t use zingers

    Whether you call them zingers, jabs, low-blows, or just hurtful insults, you know what they are and you know when you’re using them. Although these will often be unique to your relationship, everyone knows when they are dredging up the past or saying something hurtful just for the sake of hurting. In a heated and emotional argument, the time zingers start flying is the time you need to put the argument on hold and take a break to cool off.

  1. Don’t bring up hot-button issues after 9:00pm

    I don’t know what your bed-time is in your house, but in mine we usually try to be in bed by 10:00-10:30pm. Our kids go to bed between 7pm-8pm, so on a good night that only gives us a couple of hours to be together kid-free. Unfortunately, most of the time we already exhausted from the day and the bed-time routine so we don’t always bring our A-game. During this brief window of time, I like to talk to my wife about whatever is going on in our lives at the time. However, if there is an issue that needs to be addressed and I know its a place of strong disagreement I try my best to keep my mouth shut until a better time of day. I suggest you do the same. Just make sure you set a specific time when you will actually follow up and resolve the issue.

What other ways have you learned to argue well? Share them in the comments, on Facebook, or send me an Email.

Make sure to check out the other posts in this series The Truth About Marriage on tylerjbrooks.com/blog

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For the Weary…and the Busy

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

Do you ever feel weary or like you’re carrying a heavy burden? Do you ever feel like you’re at that point where you just might fall apart?

I’ve been there before. With two young, active kids at home, me and my wife are exhausted more often than not. Sometimes it seems like everything that could go wrong does—the kids are sick, the house needs cleaned, the cars need fixed, I had a bad day at work and I come home to find one more thing that broke that I can’t afford to pay someone else to fix and then my son decides to throw a tantrum over nothing.

If this was one unique, happens-every-now-and-then kind of day it might be more bearable.

But its more of a normal day that happens over and over again with only a few details changing.

When one day is tough and drains my energy, it usually runs into the next day which in turn starts out on the wrong foot as well. Then that day does the same thing to the next day. And the day after that.

Of course not all days are exactly the same and they are not all ridden with crises—but when I allow the bad days to knock me down and affect the attitude of my heart, even the good days can get tainted by it.

I recently asked my wife what she wanted to do for her birthday. She thought about it and responded that she would really like to check into a hotel room, even for just one night.

Of course I was intrigued at first, until she clarified that she would like to do this alone—by herself, no kids, no husband, no expectations. She just wants to get a break from the daily grind and the occasionally-controlled chaos that is our lives. She just wants to watch TV, then go to sleep without interruptions.

I often feel this way as well; I just need a break and some rest. But I rarely find it.

Jesus invites us to come to him, especially when we are weary, with heavy burdens. He says he will give us rest—that is, rest for our souls.

The phrase take my yoke upon you refers to two oxen being connecting together by a common yoke—they would carry or pull their heavy load together.

Jesus is saying that he wants to help you carry your burdens. He wants to teach you and guide you and give you rest in your relationship with Him.

You need only to take the step of coming to Him.

I’ve had a relationship with Jesus most of my life, but I often get caught up in my mess and forget that he doesn’t want me to be anxious, overwhelmed, and exhausted. He wants me to lay my burdens on Him; to rely on Him to guide and teach me and to give me real rest that lasts.

In what ways can you come to Jesus to find rest?  Share your thoughts, you never know who might need to hear them.

Comment below or share on Facebook.

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

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!

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.

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