Doing Life Together

man-75218_1920This green-eyed monster  has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day. It’s envy and doesn’t do well when it consumes our thoughts or actions. Wishing you had what your neighbor has, or feeling envious over someone’s job or spouse is a pain of wanting something you don’t have. And it is easy to feel green with envy when friends are constantly posting their “stuff” and exciting vacations all over Facebook and other social media.

While envy and jealousy are close bedfellows, there is a difference. Jealousy is a complex emotion and involves insecurity over losing something you already have. As a result, you can become envious, that emotion involved in fearing the loss of something. For example, you can be jealous of losing your spouse, yet envious of the marriage you see others having that you do not have.

When you feel envious, pay attention to it. The Bible actually has much to say about this negative emotion.

1 Corinthians 13:4 – Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant. When the love of God is in us, we have a different response to seeing what others have. Instead of envy, we rejoice for their blessing. We trust that God is our provider and cares for us, rather than being envious of what others have and coveting their lives or material things. Love is patient and kind.

James 3:16 – For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. Some version say envy and selfish ambition–both lead to disorder! In other words, the end result of allowing envy to build in your heart, will create disorder and cause you to do things that only bring you trouble. This speaks to the importance of keeping envy in check.

Proverbs 23:17 – Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. If we are honest, it is easy to envy people who are not living for God who seem to get what they want and get ahead because of their lack of integrity and stepping on others. We see the rich and famous living lavish lifestyles. Yet, the Bible tells us not to envy these people. They have their reward now, but that does not count for eternity. Keep you eyes on the larger prize.

Proverbs 14:30  A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Envy is bad for your health and mental health. It steals peace because of how focused we become on wanting what we do not have. Left uncheck, envy will damage us in physical and emotional ways. 

Galatians 5:26 – Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. The writer really understands human nature–our tendency to be prideful of what we have. Yet, James tells us that every good gift comes from God. It is not about how special we are. And certainly God doesn’t want us flaunting our blessings over others to make them feel less than we.

1 Peter 2:1 – So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. This is our instruction. When the feeling comes, put it away! Do not allow it to grow in your heart or mind. Take the envious thought captive–confine it, and replace it with the love of God.

Bottom line, envy is not becoming. It leads to all kinds of negative feelings and prompts us to act in ways that are not kind. So instead of focusing on what we don’t have, express gratitude for the many blessings you do have. Gratitude is an envy killer!

business-1839191_1920Tom is a healthy 26-year-old male who recently married and is struggling in his sex life due to the influence of pornography.  Although he and his wife attend church, Tom is one of the 64-to 68% of young adult men who uses pornography at least once a week (Covenant Eyes).

During college, Tom used pornography to address his sexual needs. Pornographic material was readily available and utilized by most of the men in his fraternity. His use of pornography has continued into married life.

Tom will tell you that he craves pornography, but doesn’t particularly like it. Yet the cravings are intense and he can feel them just by thinking about his computer. In addition, when thinking about sex with his wife, he feels less attracted and realizes he has developed an appetite for new sexual tastes.

Tom and others who regularly use pornography now understand that behaviors regularly reinforced in the reward, memory and motivation circuitry of the brain can become addictive. With pornography use, specific pathways in the brain are triggered that prompt the neurological response of pleasure and reward. These pathways are the same as those seen in drug addiction. Yet, there remains controversy as to whether or not pornography use is truly an addictive behavior. The data has yet to establish sexual addiction as a psychiatric diagnosis. What we do see is how destructive a path pornography is to relationships.

The good news is that God built the capacity for change into our brains. Change is possible when one starves the pathways and rewiring occurs. Like other addictions, abstinence is key. Using the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we can change our brain through the use of distraction when we feel the urge to use pornography. Starve the pathway and the brain will change.

We can also avoid external triggers that have been carved in to the neural circuits of the brain, substitute other behavior to respond to the internal triggers of loneliness, anxiety and other negative affect states, and take captive the fantasy that begins to develop in the mind. Starving the brain and meditating on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable changes the brain whether we classify pornography as addiction or not. And both are a necessary step to losing the grip of pornography on the brain.

hand-1832921_1920Relationships can be difficult. Some people are difficult because they are constantly suspicious and mistrust others. Every little thing that is said or done is more evidence for why they need to be paranoid or suspicious.

Usually people with paranoia have difficulty being intimate in relationships and stay emotionally detached. They have enemies, mainly because they are paranoid. Their unfounded suspicions lead them to be unpleasant, blaming, hostile, defensive, stubborn. They may see an injustice and make it huge.

For example, someone with paranoia may walk into a restaurant, notice someone glances at her and be convinced that person is stalking her. People with paranoia test your loyalty and are afraid to confide, fearing the information will be used against them. These are the people who bear grudges and feel attacked in their character.

A problem is that people keep their distance from paranoid people which then confirms to that paranoid even more distrust.

These signs will alert you that someone may be overly paranoid:

  • Overly jealous
  • Tense and rigid
  • Unwilling to compromise
  • Blame others for interpersonal problems
  • Moralistic
  • Looking and finding ill intent
  • Litigious
  • Humorless
  • Haughty
  • Distant
  • Few friends and few intimate others
  • Distain weakness in others
  • More common in men than women

The paranoid person rarely asks for help.  So here are some strategies to deal with paranoid people.

  1. Win their trust. One of the main issues is that paranoid people have a long-standing and unwarranted suspicion of mistrust about others. You have to win their trust. Don’t ask them to trust you. Win it. Do what you say. Respond honestly. Be true to your word. This usually takes time and requires you to be respectful and business like versus warm and intimate (too invasive). You have to help these people see that trust isn’t all or nothing. It’s lived on a continuum.
  2.  Admit mistakes when you make them, apologize and then drop the issue.
  3.  Don’t’ try to get the person to self-disclose. Rather than challenge the paranoia (which will take you nowhere), challenge the person’s perception of his inadequacy. Usually they feel inadequate, imperfect and feel shame and humiliation and project (throw) that on others. As a Christian, you can use scripture to support that we all fall short, have weaknesses but it is in those places that God can really work.
  4. Understand and their core assumption: People are deceptive, attack you. Avoid them cause you’ll get hurt. This is what the paranoid person thinks and you will have to point out times when this does not seem to be true.

Be ready to be patient. If these seem strategies feel overwhelming, don’t be afraid to refer to a professional therapist.  This work usually takes a great deal of time and patience since you are dealing with long-standing patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.


beautiful-1274056_1920Let’s just admit it, talking about sex with a teen is necessary but uncomfortable for most people. Yet, these important conversations can impact a teen’s life. So let’s look at 4 myths that usual get in the way of helpful conversation around issues of sexuality.

Myth #1: Talking about sex will make it more likely to happen.

The opposite is true. When a parent talks about sex, he or she can communicate their own values on sexuality, can better understand their teens perspective and can tailor shared information based on their teenager’s stage of development, life experience, personality, and knowledge level.

Parents should begin having conversations about sexual behavior as early as the later years of elementary school. Talking should include information about the body, menstruation, and puberty. In middle school address sexual messages sent by the culture, strategies to resist sexual temptation, flee a situation and avoid tempting situations. By high school it’s all about open communication and listening. That said, it is never too late to begin conversations about sexual behavior.

You can begin a sexual conversations like this…

“It is my job as a parent to make sure you understand and know how to handle all kinds of pressures you face, and that includes sexual ones.”

Fathers and mothers need to be on the same page as to what they are communicating. It may be easier to have these conversations when you are walking, driving or doing an activity together.

Myth #2:  My child knows more than I do.

Honestly, probably not true especially on topics like oral sex. Just because a teen knows vocabulary doesn’t mean he or she knows what those terms actually mean. And there is a lot of misinformation that kids hear, read and see. So don’t assume that because they say something, they actually understand it fully. Even when they do understand a term, they may not know how to handle situations. So, discuss details and reality. You can  go over several common scenarios and discuss what could be done in each case. For example, your teen finds herself alone in her boyfriend’s car and he makes a move, what could she do?

Myth #3: Certain forms of contraception will protect youno contraception is 100% effective. Yet, commercials and ads make it sound like using a condom or birth control is effective protection. Furthermore, there is really no such thing as, “casual’ or “safe” sex. This means talking about the realities of the consequences of sexual behavior–whether those are emotional, relational or physical. Openly discuss messages from media (music, TV, movies) and contrast them to the biblical viewpoint. How do these messages impact our thinking? Pay attention to your child’s romantic relationships and don’t assume he or she is not sexually active because of his or her faith.

Myth #4: I can have the Big Talk and then my work is done.

Talking about sexual struggles in today’s world is an on-going conversation. You can’t cover everything at once. And you need to react to events in the culture in order to provide a biblical perspective. We live in a sexually saturated society in which are kids are exposed to sexual content on a daily basis. They need a lens from which to see and interpret the exposure–that is you. You don’t need to be condemning and judgmental. Rather, talk about the what is behind the behavior, the messages being sent and how the behavior lines up with a biblical perspective. In other words, get your kids to think about what they see, not simply accept it as normal. Don’t moralize, but communicate your values and why we believe what we believe. Finally, encourage any question or concern to be brought up.