Why We Must Become Like Little Children Again

little children

Photo Credit: archangel80889

They’re fighting over grapes.

My daughter Caitlin, age 8, has decided she wants grapes for breakfast, and her older brother Quinn, age 10, has decided to run interference. He gets to the grapes before her and tells her he’ll break off a cluster of grapes for her and keep the rest for himself.

Caitlin never suffers injustice quietly.

She plants her feet, looks him in the eye, points a finger at his chest, and says, “Quinn, you are being controlling!” Quinn looks at her, pauses for a moment, and then surprises both of us. “No,” he says, “I’m not controlling; I’m greedy.”

Then, he apologizes and hands her the bowl of grapes.

“Truly, I tell you,” Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The meaning of this proclamation has been debated for millennia. What does it mean to become like little children? How does this usher us into the kingdom of heaven? And, oh, by the way, what in the world is the kingdom of heaven?

Whether you think of Jesus as truly a God-man, simply a wise man, or ultimately a crazy man, this declaration of his tends to capture your attention. It rings true. And yet the tenor of that ring feels complicated and uncertain and mysterious. Right now, I’m not interested in changing your decision about what kind of man he was, nor am I interested in uncomplicating this particular teaching of his.

But I don’t mind telling you how it has changed my life.

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Week 22: Putting Stories Before Opinions [Loveable 023]

“Every opinion is a story in disguise…Every belief is a story fashioned into a worldview.”  

Episode 23 of The Loveable Podcast is all about opinions, opinionated people, and how to go deeper than our opinions in order to form true belonging. We wear our opinions like armor, and this week we’re going to talk about how to take a little more of that armor off, so we can truly connect.

loveable podcast episode 23

This week’s episode explores the following topics:

  • Having patience with ourselves, as our tolerance for vulnerability ebbs and flows.
  • A powerful example of how true belonging is built.
  • The key principle that guides all graceful boundary setting.
  • The difference between having an opinion and wielding an opinion.
  • Why debating our opinions is best saved until after discussing our stories.
  • A litmus test for true belonging.
  • How cultural trends are promoting truer belonging between parents and children.
  • The importance of curiosity and surprise when discussing our stories.
  • How to believe your opinion is universally true and still cultivate belonging rather than division with it.
  • A practice for cultivating storytelling rather than opinion-giving.

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Dear Marriage, Humanity Wants a Divorce from You

Dear Marriage,

There is a “demographic time bomb” about to explode in Japan.

The population of Japan is predicted to drop from 127 million people to 88 million people by 2065, and to 51 million by 2115. Last year, in Japan, there were less than a million births for the first time in recorded history. Soon, Japan will have almost as many senior citizens as able-bodied workers. Japanese economists are terrified. Why is this happening? Are Japanese couples simply having fewer children, or is something else going on?

Something else is going on.

marriage divorce

Photo Credit: siam.pukkato (Bigstock)

The number of Japanese men planning to marry has dropped from 67% to 39%, and the number of Japanese women planning to marry has dropped from 82% to 59%. This kind of change is not totally unheard of—over generations and across the centuries, attitudes toward marriage have fluctuated dramatically. However, this change hasn’t happened over three centuries or even three generations. It has happened in just three years.

Dear Marriage, young people in Japan are no longer divorcing themselves from each other; they’re quickly divorcing themselves from you.

And Japan is just the canary in the coal mine.

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Week 21: Finding the Fear Underneath All the Fury [Loveable 022]

“Anger isn’t an inherently bad thing. Anger becomes a destructive thing when we allow it to become a reactive thing instead of harnessing it as a guiding thing.”  

In Episode 21 of The Loveable Podcast, we focus on what to do with the anger around us and the anger within us. How do we know when anger is healthy versus unhealthy, and how do we relate to it in a way that produces wisdom and connection rather than pain and aggression?

loveable podcast episode 22

This week’s episode explores the following topics:

  • The importance of practicing vulnerability in safe spaces.
  • How creating a dialogue with the little kid inside of you can help you to overcome fear and increase your tolerance for vulnerability.
  • The difference between courage and foolishness when cultivating belonging.
  • What it looks like when the true self in you sees past someone’s anger and instead sees their true self.
  • Why hurting people hurt people.
  • The essential difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • How the concept of ego helps us to disrupt negative escalation in communication.
  • How to progress through our various layers of protection to reconnect with our true self.
  • Why releasing our false self feels like a grieving process.
  • A practice for disrupting patterns of anger in relationships.

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Week 20: What to Do with Your Walls [Loveable 021]

“Walls are everywhere in our world…We build them so big they are the only things we create that can be seen from space. It’s like we’re advertising to the universe, ‘Walls matter on this big, spinning rock!’ But perhaps the biggest walls, the most important walls, are the ones that cannot be seen at all…the walls we erect in our minds, build around our hearts, and place firmly between ourselves and other people.”  

In Episode 21 of The Loveable Podcast, we discuss the necessity of heart-walls, but also the essentiality of using them wisely, so they lead to love and belonging, rather than disconnection and loneliness. 

loveable podcast episode 21

This week’s episode answers the following questions:

  • What do heart-walls look like? What do healthy walls look like?
  • How can I be intentional about monitoring how and when I’m protecting with my heart walls?
  • Why when I act strong and needless and wantless, do I end up even more lonely than before?
  • Does the risk and vulnerability of cultivating true belonging ever go away?
  • How can I increase my comfort with vulnerability and decrease the chances that I will keep myself hidden and protected?
  • How do we discern when it is healthy versus self-sabotaging to protect ourselves with our heart-walls?
  • What should you do in marriage if spouses have different levels of comfort with vulnerability?
  • How can I engage with the little kid inside of me who is still in charge of my walls?
  • What can I do this week to take one small step toward healthier walls and productive vulnerability?

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This Is the Powerful Promise of Our Pain

belonging

Photo Credit: altanaka (Bigstock)

Piteously. She hung her little head and whimpered piteously. Spell the word piteously.”

For three years, my oldest son Aidan has been aspiring to win his middle school spelling bee. In sixth grade, he froze up and was out in the first round. Days of heckling ensued. In seventh grade, he placed second. No heckling, just a hint of his own disappointment. This year, he’s the favorite, and he has his eyes set on the trophy that is, bizarrely, half his size. Then, after a half-dozen rounds dueling with the remaining contestant, the pronouncer asks Aidan to spell the word piteously.

Aidan spells it with two “i”s.

I’m watching via Facebook Live and I pump my fists in exaltation, believing he has spelled it correctly. The pronouncer tells us otherwise. And, on the screen of my mobile phone, my beloved son simply deflates. Somehow, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut, too. Sure, it’s just a middle school spelling bee, but still, I want to claw my way through the digital screen and wrap him in a father’s hug.

There is nothing rational about it. A hug won’t roll back time and change an “i” to an “e.” A hug won’t prevent him from feeling piteous before his peers for the rest of the day. In this moment, a hug is no more and no less than the full promise of his pain, and the promise is this:

Pain pulls us together.

More than fourteen years ago, when he got stuck in the birth canal and his heart rate was dropping, his earliest moments of pain and peril turned all of my life’s priorities upside down. Everything I thought was important was suddenly inconsequential, and the only thing that mattered was holding him in my arms.

Pain disorients us and then reorients us to each other.  

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Week 19: From Limping Lonely to Loving Together [Loveable 020]

There are two kinds of loneliness. The first kind is a natural and inevitable part of being human—it exists because you exist. The second kind of loneliness, however, is a loneliness of our own creation. And that’s good news, because if we can create it, we can also uncreate it. 

In Episode 20 of The Loveable Podcast, we talk about the thing within us that creates the second type of loneliness, and we begin to explore what we can do about that thing, so that we can finally be together. 

loveable podcast episode 20

This week’s episode explores the following topics:

  • Why not distinguishing between our two kinds of loneliness inadvertently makes our shame and loneliness worse.
  • Why nonlonely people don’t really exist.
  • How to take responsibility for our own role in creating our own unnecessary loneliness.
  • A thorough exploration of the false self in each of us, which backfires, creating more loneliness.
  • Why compassion for our own false self is the only path toward living from our true self.
  • How to minimize loneliness in the midst of depression.
  • Why true belonging is built not around perfection but around repair.
  • A powerful tip for building belonging in marriage—and it’s simple!
  • What healthy emotional boundaries look like.
  • A practice that will prepare you to break the habit of protecting that keeps you lonely.
  • A teaser about the next episode entitled, “What to Do with Your Walls.”

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Week 18: A Kid Named Lonely [Loveable 019]

“Places of belonging are not meant to be places where our loneliness is taken away. They are meant to be places where we reveal our loneliness to one another…Once you have made your loneliness available to one of your people, you will no longer need to eradicate it. You will be able to touch it without fear and despair. You may feel hopeless to fix it, but you will be filled with the hope that comes from being joined in it.”

In Episode 19 of The Loveable Podcast, we begin the months of loving by talking about loneliness and how to transform our relationship to it, so all of our relationships can be transformed by it. 

loveable podcast episode 19

This week’s episode explores the following topics:

  • How the inward journey of embracing our worthiness lays the foundation for the outward journey toward true belonging.
  • Why cultivating belonging always entails risk, fear, and vulnerability.
  • How normalizing our loneliness by sharing it helps to diminish it without having to eliminate it.
  • Why circles of true belonging must shrink before they deepen.
  • The idea that circles of true belonging are organized around a shared sense of worthiness rather than shared interests.
  • The reason it is so important to begin relationships from your true self, rather than projecting a persona.
  • Why people may respond in both good and bad ways when we begin revealing our true self.
  • A practice for disrupting conflict in marriage and relationships in general triggered by disputes around loneliness.
  • Why it is important to be aware that our loneliness has been with us forever and did not originate in our current relationship.
  • A teaser about the next episode entitled, “From Limping Lonely to Loving Together.”

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The Good Reason We Wish Bad Things Upon Other People

intimacy

She misses yet again.

My daughter Caitlin and I are playing ping-pong. She’s only eight years-old and still waiting on some of her hand-eye coordination (it may never arrive), so she misses the ball almost every time. Nevertheless, with a solemn look on her face, she persists, swinging with determination at every ball I send her way.

Then, several minutes into our play, she catches one solidly, firing it right back at me.

I’m shocked and unprepared for the event. I quickly try to recover but I’m too late—I swing and miss. Suddenly, the solemn look on her face is transformed into something that looks like a sunrise. And she says with delight, “Oh good, I’m not the only one messing up!”

I’m not the only one messing up!

It’s a delightful revelation in ping-pong, but it’s an even more delightful revelation in life, isn’t it? Because in the back-and-forth, ping-pong chaos of life, we are always swinging and missing. We do our best, but our life-eye coordination hasn’t quite arrived (it may never arrive). And I’m pretty sure there’s a name for this situation. It’s called being human.

To be human is to make a mess of things.

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Week 17: The One Illusion We Cannot Afford to Believe In [Loveable 018]

“Experiencing our worthiness does not lead us to believe we are self-sufficient; it helps us to be at peace with the knowledge that we are insufficient. We are interconnected. Interdependent. As big as a limitless soul, but as small and as fragile as a human body.”

In Episode 18 of The Loveable Podcast, we focus on the truest fruit of embracing our worthiness: embracing the worthiness of everyone else as well, and remembering that we are all ultimately connected.

loveable podcast episode 18

This week’s episode explores the following topics:

  • How to relinquish our attachment to mental narratives that keep us miserable.
  • Why allowing ourselves to feel sadness and pain paradoxically produces energy, creativity, and joy.
  • The importance of asking for a mentor or guide if venturing into our emotions becomes overwhelming.
  • How embracing our own worthiness helps us to raise kids who have a resilient sense of worthiness.
  • Why life is about connection, not competition.
  • A challenge to identify the people in your life who have been the voice of grace to you.
  • A practice to cultivate awareness of, and gratitude for, your connection to others.
  • A teaser about the next episode entitled, “A Kid Named Lonely.”

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