Doing Life Together

ID-10041651Please, put away your cell phone! We are eating dinner. 

Get off the video game now. You have homework to do. 

How many hours have you spent on Facebook? How about a real conversation?

I admit, I tend to focus on the negative impact of too much screen time. We know, from studies, that too much screen time can lead to every thing from obesity to impaired brain function. But are there any upsides to screen time?

Like most things, even screen time is not all bad. Although I will say that an excess of screen time and what you do on screen time do matter.

Sandra Calvert, director of Georgetown University’s Children’s Digital Media Center, says screen time can boost two executive function skills in the brain–reasoning and problem-solving. She also notes that when games like MIT-developed, Scratch, are played, a child’s hand-eye coordination and logic skills can improve.

Nicholas Carr, author of The Glass Cage, believes visual acuity gets better.

Addressing possible positive social effects of screen time, Lee Humphreys, associate professor of communications at Cornell University believes people can spend well meaning time on screens. She doesn’t see screen time as a complete blockage of all social engagement, reminding us that people have used media to isolate before. Think hiding behind a newspaper or book when you didn’t want to interact with others.

Still, I add caution to these positives because of what we know about brain changes related to excess screen time. Excess screen time can lead to kids who are moody, impulsive and attention challenged. And the multiple studies that show atrophy of gray matter in the brain, can’t be denied. And so it goes… best advice is still the biblical one. Moderation in all things.


PrintJim and Rachel are at it again. They can’t seem to agree on so many issues and all the fighting is taking a toll. Like so many of us, this couple needs help navigating conflict in a way that grows, not destroys, their relationship.

“We need to talk . . .”

It’s amazing how these four short words can stop a conversation and grip us with momentary anxiety. Let’s be honest, these words usually mean something is wrong and we are about to go into the world of feelings, a place not everyone likes to visit. If you are smart, you won’t begin a conversation with these four words. The phrase “We need to talk” puts most of us on the defensive.

“We need to talk” takes time and energy. It can be exhausting and doesn’t always end with a quick fix. But the idea behind “We need to talk” is important to making our relationships work. It’s our cue that something needs to be addressed.

How do you respond to these four words? Take the free conflict style assessment to find out. Do you embrace the idea or run for the hills?

One reason this phrase makes our hearts skip a beat is because so many of us are uncomfortable working through relationship conflicts. For whatever reasons, we don’t have the confidence that we can face conflict without causing more problems. And we don’t like the way conflict makes us feel.

But conflict is woven into our daily lives. It shows up often—in political arguments, disagreements with co-workers, fights with siblings, and marital bickering. Its consequences can bring the end of a marriage, friction between friends, or loss of a job. Thus, this ever-present conflict can keep us stuck or it can provide growth in our relationships. To deal with conflict, we do need to talk.

Conflict is a part of all close relationship. Under the right conditions, conflict can grow intimacy and bring satisfaction to relationships. And in unhappy relationships, conflict escalates problems and distress and needs to be addressed.

Conflict is difficult to handle because it involves other people, and we can’t fully control other people. While that reality makes us uncomfortable and complicates things, we do control our part in any conflict situation. Our reactions matter when we need to talk. We focus on the part we control, not on what someone else is doing or not doing. This shift in focus is critical.

In the best of situations, confronting conflict brings positive results. Relief is felt once the issue is addressed. We learn more about ourselves and more about others. We see that relationships can be repaired, people can reconcile, and problems can be solved. A deeper understanding, closeness, and mutual respect can develop when we do talk.

Dr. Linda Mintle’s book, We Need to Talk is now available.

Sean Lowe, made famous by the reality television shows The Bachelorette and The Bachelor, was known as the Virgin Bachelor. But Lowe makes no apologies for his desire to wait until marriage to have sex with the woman he wanted to marry.

Recently, he spoke at Liberty University’s convocation and talked about how he challenged the lie that you have to sexually test out a partner before marriage in order to know if you have sexual compatibility.

A recent Gallup poll reported:

  • 80 percent of young unmarried Christians have had sex outside of marriage.
  • Two-thirds of unmarried Christians have been sexual active in the last year.
  • 42 percent of the 18-29 year olds in the 80 percent group are currently in sexual relationships.

Yet, despite these statistics, 76 percent of Christians still believe sex outside of marriage is wrong. Apparently, there is a wide disconnect between what we believe and what we actually do. Why is this and how can live what we believe?

1) Talk about sex in the church. Rather than pretending that pre-marital sex isn’t happening, we need conversations about how to resist temptation and deal with sexual brokenness. The pressures to conform, availability of pornography, and how we cope with living in a culture saturated with sex, need honest discussion with shared strategies to stay the course.

2) When you engage with media, be intentional. Does what you see line up with a biblical worldview? The constant exposure to promiscuity can desensitize us to the truth of God’s word.

3) Go to church. Attending church one day a week (which is what most people do) hardly competes with the daily onslaught of sexual messages, but it does provide a weekly centering and reminder.

4) Continue to read your Bible in order to renew your mind to God’s ways versus the cultural narrative. Sean was reading the Bible every day when he was on the show.

5) Pray with each other and put on the armor of God since it is a difficult struggle (Ephesians 6:10-18). We need each other to stay strong.

6) Share real stories of sexual promiscuity, e.g., sexually transmitted infections, the emotional fall out of sex outside of marriage, and the spiritual issues involved. Media focus on the physical act of sex, but people live with the emotional and spiritual fall out of sexually acting out. Those stories need to be shared as well. There is no real life glamour of promiscuity.

7) Value marriage. Waiting to have sex or being faithful in marriage are worth fighting for and need to be valued.

8) Examine the cohabitation data. Cohabitation leads to an increased chance of divorce, the very thing couples fear. The data doesn’t support the idea that hooking up prior to marriage, makes marriage better or prevents divorce.

9) Find friends who want to be accountable and will try to live what they believe. When you surround yourself with like-minded people, it is easier to encourage each other to resist temptation.

10) When it comes to sex, resisting temptation is best done by not putting oneself in a position of temptation. Identify the triggers that can leave you vulnerable and avoid those whenever possible.


griefHe sat in my office and told me his father died suddenly of a heart attack. There was no warning and he and his mom were heartbroken. 

She was crying as she talked about her 20 year marriage coming to an end. Her husband words, “I don’t love you and want out,” hit hard. 

He never saw it coming. For years, his trusted friend was his confidante. How could this lifelong friend betray him with a one-night stand with his girlfriend? 

Love, loss, tragedy, trauma…what helps in the healing process may surprise you.

A host of studies have shown that people who write about their trauma and difficult experiences heal better, They sleep better, feel better, do better academically, cope better, and are more positive.

Not everyone will go to someone to talk out a loss or trauma, but anyone can write. Writing helps you take your story of loss and make meaning of it. We open up and express our thoughts and feelings, especially when we need to allow grieving.

Expressing your feelings through writing helps organize your story and gives perspective. Writing releases your story and keeps it from being bottled up. Not talking or writing about difficult events can negatively impact your health.

So if you feel stuck and need to move along the healing process, add writing to your prayer and reading of God’s word. Try 15-20 minutes for a week or so. Write from your heart. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or sentence construction. No one has to see what you wrote and you can tear it up or delete it at some point if that is your desire.

Label your feelings, talk about how this event affects your life. Get it down on paper and see if writing is a little like taking good medicine. Then write out a few of God’s promises to you–ones that relate to your experience, e.g., God will never leave you, He will be with you through difficulty, He will give you wisdom, comfort, peace, etc.

Writing is therapeutic. Give it a try and see if it helps!