Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Women

Dating During Separation or Divorce – Yes or No?

Assuming marriage for you has been a rough go or your partner left you or worse yet, committed adultery and you find yourself separated or in the middle of a divorce. Your emotions left the marriage perhaps months or even years ago for multiple reasons, but you tried repeatedly to make it work. You’re tired and you lack answers. You’re in a tough place. 

Do you date? Why not? Your friends are trying to set you up, telling you to move on and/or saying that you need to think about yourself. 

It’s problematic

Dating during separation or divorce can be problematic on several levels. The first to consider is that you are still legally married; therefore, you are not available. Separation, even a legal one–you’re still married. Divorce pending–still married. Legally and spiritually, your vows are still intact. To start a relationship on this foundation would not only be unrighteous, but unwise seeds planted into the next relationship.

You are most likely not ready for a new partner; therefore, you should not be dating. Dating is an act of looking for love and companionship again and a marriage partner. Are you emotionally free, financially free, mentally and spiritually free? In other words, have you been on a healing trek during this time of separation and/or divorce? Most experts say this process takes at least two years.

What responsibility do you take for the failed marriage? Everyone bears responsibility and there are many things to learn and grow through about partners (right and wrong ones), about ourselves, and about a lasting marriage. Do not rob God or yourself of sufficient healing time.

If there are children, then you and your ex are both still intricately relating. If you are pursuing divorce and dating, court judges may look negatively on the responsibility level of your parenting. Further, your kids are hurting and they need you fully there for them.

Are you escaping bad feelings and a relationship that ultimately didn’t work? Are you trading bad feelings for new, exciting ones? While this new relationship might be exciting and create new, feel-good emotions (mainly wanting to escape the old ones), then you might be forfeiting the deep work that could be taking place in your life. Worse yet, most relationships started during separation or divorce do not last. Now you have further complicated the issues for you and your family.

Another soul connection

Adding another soul connection via a new relationship further complicates the process. Maybe it starts as a friendly meal together. Then it progresses to deeper talks as the friendship grows. Then there is an attraction. As the attraction grows, the pair become more and more open, more and more vulnerable. Eventually feelings of love can be the result, causing a deepening soul connection and then one can begin thinking, “This is the person for me.”

If the relationship continues, it can become physical with hugs, hand holding and kisses. This touch leads to more touch and a soul-to-soul connection. Further, if the physical, emotional and, yes, even spiritual relationship continues to be justified, it can ultimately cross boundaries and become sexual. 

Each decision we make has consequences

So, let’s back up the truck. When did this relationship we’re writing about cross the line and become sinful? The lesson for men and women who are separated or pursuing divorce is to not start the process of dating until the vows are legally broken and sufficient healing has taken place. 

If you are separated, seek with all of your heart and soul to remain faithful to your vows, obeying the scripture and your spoken word. Relentlessly pursue personal healing with everything in you. Lay your feelings at the altar and ask Jesus to walk with you. Seek the Spirit of God’s advice and direction. Ask Him to be Lord of all your decision making. 

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Prayer

Another Election Day Approaching

As many of us approach election day here in the USA, I thought I would pass along to you some really healthy and sound advice. But first, let me share some of the best advice from God’s word found in I Timothy 2:1-3 from The Passion version.

 1-3 The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

Some very sound advice:

  • I can deeply love people with whom I strongly disagree. I refuse to demonize any politician who is made in the image of God.
  • I have enemies and Jesus gave me power over them on the cross, but my battle is NOT against flesh and blood.
  • When you call someone by an evil name…you have decided that you know their heart. But, the Apostle Paul said, “Who are you to judge the servant of another?”
  • Associating with, or serving political people, should not be confused with embracing their ideologies. All political offices deserve to be honored according to Romans 13.
  • I am commanded and called to pray for my leaders. If I don’t pray for them, then I don’t have a right to critique their success or failure.
  • My first allegiance is not to a political party but to the kingdom of God.
  • I cannot separate my spiritual views from my political views because the government of this world is being affected and infected by the invisible realm.
  • Great government doesn’t take away the right of people to sin. It does however, protect people from sinning against others and teaching people to do so.
  • It’s not the responsibility of government to Christianize the world. That’s the church’s job.  Jesus rules the nations with a rod of iron, but He leads the church with a shepherd’s staff. (Bullet points written by author Kris Valloton.)

Lastly, let us keep in mind the innocent in this election, for our vote matters to them. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “This is God’s message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering!” (22:3, The Message)

Let’s prayerfully walk out this election like our first allegiance is to the kingdom of God and not to a political party.

Standard
Healing, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

Is There a Place for Pornography in Marriage?

Pornography played a major role in Jon’s downfall, the husband of a couple that we had counseled with. For many, it is a silent killer. It’s a killer of intimacy, of honesty, of time, of finances, and of our own bodies. Jesus said, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34).

Our eyes provide a window to our mind, our heart, and our spirit. When our eyes wander toward or are attracted to pornographic images, we give darkness permission to enter the light. Jesus warned us about this very thing when He said, “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35). 

There is no redeeming factor when it comes to pornography. It is a multi-billion-dollar industry in our nation built on lust. Lust is insatiable, and Satan will hand it to us freely. Lust is about taking and is fully self-seeking. Lust will increase as we feed it until we find ourselves in bondage. But love is satisfying, focused on giving, and full of selflessness. As love increases, we will find ourselves walking in freedom and becoming closer to our life mate. 

In our pre- and postmarital book, Called Together, we ask the question, “Can you be involved in lust toward your spouse?” That question creates quite a stir and challenges couples not yet married. A single person may think that marriage means the end of lusting after another, but married couples know that simply is not true. According to the above definition of lust, we can be involved in lust within our marriages by demanding, taking, and sexual selfishness. Pornography will feed that self-centered attitude. 

Love feeds an attitude of giving, sharing, and bringing pleasure out of a heart and mind that is not tarnished by images of raw, base acts. Love is never demanding in the bedroom, as it speaks encouragement, affirmation, and genuine acceptance. 

                       Pornography: The Breakdown Within our marriages 

A nationally conducted survey among churches over the past five years revealed that 68 percent of men and 50 percent of pastors view pornography regularly. The most shocking was that 11- to 17-year-old boys reported being the greatest users at 85 percent, and nearly 50 percent of young girls are also viewing porn (see: fightthenewdrug. org). 

Pornography is a $4 billion industry in our country. More money is spent on pornography per year than on professional baseball, basketball, football, and the Super Bowl combined. Eleven thousand adult films are produced per year, which is 20 times the number of regular media films annually coming out of Hollywood. The issue is sweeping through the church, reaching the next generation. It is an epidemic. 

Studies show that when we are involved in sexual activity, the brain releases a number of chemicals, one of which is oxytocin, which is the “glue” that enables human bonding. (Oxytocin is also released as a mother holds and breastfeeds her newborn.) When we watch pornography, powerful neurotransmitters are activated. Our brain takes the images and associates this bonding chemical with them, actually interfering with natural human bonding and sexuality. 

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do (1 Peter 1:13-15)

Viewing pornography opens the door of our soul and spirit to spiritual oppression, confusion, hopelessness, hurt, control, and domination in evil ways. Men and women feel betrayed by spouses who use porn. Women feel as though they cannot compete with the images their husbands are viewing. It is an illusion that says women will do anything to please their man; no woman in real life lives within that kind of fantasy world. It brings insecurities to her and can destroy her esteem. She will question her attractiveness and her adequacy as a lover. She can eventually think and believe that porn is more important to her husband than she is to him, an ultimate sexual betrayal. 

Men often view pornography as innocent, a fix for loneliness or not having a sexual partner who agrees with his desires. Men rationalize and justify their behavior by attempting to call it “normal behavior” of a man who is simply visual. The act of viewing pornography is highly addictive and some psychologists state that it is similar to crack cocaine addiction. Over time it does not diminish, but tends to intensify. It can interfere with a man’s ability to function at home with his family, at work, and, of course, in the bedroom. 

Many women are now viewing porn. Six of ten girls see their first pornography before age eighteen. This practice has become far more acceptable among teen girls. For some, they are attempting to find out what boys desire, and for others they are involving themselves out of loneliness. Little do they know that viewing pornography creates an even higher rate of loneliness among its users. 

Ladies and men, by viewing pornography you are supporting the industry and helping it to grow. You are contributing to the sexual exploitation of the victims caught in that world. You are adding to the sin of human trafficking. You are saying “yes” to an industry that feeds and preys on innocent men, women, and children and can even lead to their abduction, abuse, and death. You are learning to see and treat people as a sex object. You are destroying your marriage, your family, and yourself, and you are keeping victims trapped (which today includes more teenage girls and boys than ever). 

Lastly, pornography will make you into a liar. You will have to constantly lie about your use to your loved ones and perhaps your employer. I love these verses that Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord…. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:13,18). 

Taken from Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve and Mary Prokopchak

Standard
Challenge, Healing, In the news, Issues of the Day, Training

Learning Psychoanalytic Therapy

Going through the books on my book shelf in my office I came across an old college book with writing assignments still stuffed neatly inside. I tossed the book, but kept the assignments to peruse them–interesting reading from the 1980’s.

There were all the different counseling approaches studied with practice assignments placing you with a counselee while using that particular psychoanalytic method. Professors threw at us as students tons of stuff to wade through like early childhood, teenage years, early adulthood, sexual impulses, unconscious factors, transference, disassociation, etc. It was like baking a cake with differing recipes and then trying to find the one you really liked and wanted to serve to others. 

Professors underlined words, placed checkmarks and wrote “OK” or “Good” at the end of the assignment. I was a dedicated Christian and my approach wasn’t always welcomed, even though professors pushed equality, diversity of thought and openness, nonjudgmental attitudes and acceptance. But as a believer, I rarely felt the same from them. I was not free to express my Biblical perspective.

I wasn’t offended, but seeing and feeling so much inequality, all the while equality is being taught seemed disingenuous at the least, feeling attacked at most. In one paper I wrote, “My values would be those closely related to the Christian ethic. Being a Christian will influence me in that it is impossible for me to hide those values or exclude them from a helping relationship. I know I will expose those values without imposing those values on my clients.” The doctor of psychology professor did not agree with me. 

But that was years ago. My degree was completed, followed by 25 plus years of counseling. It was an era of my life that I enjoyed and embraced. Psychology simply means the study of the mind, but who is the One that can truly understand the mind? Who has the answers to each and every issue in life and who brings healing like no other counselor? There is this One who predates psychology by a few years.

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulder. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Standard
Challenge, In the news, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Singles, Women

What’s Faith Have to Do With Sex and Marriage Stability?

Young men and women with an active faith in God and His word, the Bible, are long-term men and women who take saying “I do” seriously. They share similar moral beliefs and deeply held values. They possess a higher commitment to sexual fidelity. And those who regularly attend church have about a 40% less likely chance of divorcing. (See this Harvard study.)

Marrying when young often means less relationship baggage primarily because there are less exes. Maturity in a relationship is not measured in chronological age. Maturity is measured in one’s ability to think of their spouse or future spouse first and not themselves. 

Cohabitation is precarious, uncertain and shaky because it undermines the quality of your marriage commitment. While marrying Corrine, you may find yourself thinking about your years with Heather and then comparing your new wife’s sexual responses to Bekah’s. It will increase the instability of your marriage foundation. Cohabitation is pretending to be married with a widely open back door. There is no need for commitment in sickness and in health; there are no vows spoken to one another and to God. There are no community of believers helping you to remain committed to each other without the bond of a legalized marriage.

And then this

In a Wall Street Journal article dated Saturday, February 5, 2022 Lyman Stone and Brad Wilcox wrote, “[In surveying] 50,000 women in the U.S. governments National Survey of Family Growth, we found that there is a group of women for whom marriage before 30 is not risky: women who married directly, without ever cohabitating prior to marriage. In fact, women who married between 22 and 30, without first living together, had some of the lowest rates of divorce in the National Survey of Family Growth.” Now that says something which majorly contradicts the former conventional wisdom of trying it to see if you like it.

One of the reasons couples are marrying later today is hope against hope that they will not encounter divorce. They are vying for a lower risk rate. But along the way as they give themselves freely to various sexual partners and/or cohabitate they are actually decreasing their chances of marriage without experiencing divorce. Research is now growing and concluding that to cohabitate prior to marriage and to experience multiple sexual partners, couples are less likely to be happily married. The pretest thought simply does not work. 

It has been God’s word of truth

The word of God has revealed this truth for centuries. Social science is now only catching up to the truth written in the Bible about relationships and marriage. God’s word is more current when it comes to marriage and pre-marriage than tomorrow’s scientific study found within academia. 

For example, did you know that sexual pleasure between husband and wife was God’s idea? Solomon wrote these inspired words, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer–may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.” (Proverbs 5:18, 19) 

Paul the Apostle wrote:

But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (I Corinthians 7:2-5)

God is not embarrassed by sexual intimacy, He is not a prude or naïve when it comes to His wonderful gift, but He did place very strict, very safe and very loving boundaries around it. Paul also clearly warned us when he wrote, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (I Corinthians 6:12)

Sexual pleasure is God’s intent for marriage and procreation is not the only purpose of sex, but sexual fulfillment within marriage is a process, a learned experience. 

Concluding with married sex is better sex

Married couples have better sex for numerous reasons. They are committed to one another. They desire to please one another and give versus taking to meet a need. Intimacy is not filled with lust, but rather love. The married partners are monogamous. Sex within marriage is the safest sex. It is sex without worry, without thought of being caught, without fear of disobeying God’s command and sex within marriage is the best sex because you know the desires of your life mate. 

For all of these reasons and more we can conclude that God was right all along. His written word and His commands were all for our good and our pleasure. Boundaries are an important part of life and so it is also true of sexual boundaries. May you find this truth for yourself and then experience the pure joy of obedience and God’s gift to you.

Standard
Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Seven Steps to Help You Resolve Communication Conflicts

Every couple on earth has suffered through communication conflicts. Here are seven areas to consider as we walk through life together so that our conflicts will actually decrease. 

  1. When we have a conflict we need to maintain a right attitude toward one another. Conflict is not always detrimental in marriage, but it does test our faith, our patience and our personal level of grace. According to the scripture, it also develops character (Romans 5:3-5; James 1: 2-4) In marriage we often “use” one another to help smooth out our character. It is true that our conflict is deeper because our love is deeper.
  1. As conflicts are resolved, God uses those areas in our lives to help others. I know that sounds far off, but it’s true. We will have authority to speak into that which we have had to grow through and have won the battles. Believe God for win/wins with your conflicts.
  2. The natural response to conflict is more conflict, a desire to win or bailing out and quitting. But when we push through, pray through and persevere through the trial, the outcome will be perseverance doing its work. James said to let perseverance finish its work so we can mature. The problem is too many couples quit, give up and believe it cannot be resolved or they want others to resolve it for them. The truth is the more we persevere the more victory we will eventually have. Ask any couple who fought through finance differences, persevered, stuck to a budget until they saw the reward and you will find a couple who has grown strong in the financial realm.
  3. Whatever we sow, we reap. Sowing and reaping is at work in our marriages. If we sow the negative, we will reap it. Typically, we sow discontent and criticism because we’re not getting what we want. We forget that is what we’ll reap. The seed of criticism cannot produce the fruit we’re looking for. In the midst of this conflict, what good seeds can you sow?
  4. Don’t give the enemy a foothold (Ephesians 4:26-27) by not coming to a resolve. A marriage that holds bitterness, plants negative seeds and criticism, anger, etc. is not doing what Peter said when he told us to be considerate of our wives and treat them with respect so our prayers are not hindered. In other words, prayer will be powerless in the home of disrespect, discontent and the lack of peace.
  5. Be aware of what Paul called selfish ambition (Philippians 2:1-2). Most of our conflict is over selfish preferences rather than desiring the best for one another. 
  6. Lastly, we are to love deeply. I Peter 4:8 tells us “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Love often means overlooking, forgetting and not pointing out failures. It’s a “keeps no record of wrong” position. 

God wants you to be able to resolve conflict and I believe He gives us the tools to do so. Obviously, we both need to stick to the plan and press forward for a better outcome to our marriage communication. 

Assignment: A step that you can take is to write down the common triggers in your relationship that tend to cause arguments and discuss why and how. Ask God for healing in those areas of your lives.

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Identity, Issues of the Day

Am I Brainwashed?

I entered the US Air Force during the Vietnam war. I was not allowed to just participate without a proper military foundation and so there was this tormenting program called Basic Training. It was months of grueling exercise to get into shape along with mind-altering courses of instruction.

We learned how to stand at attention, stand at ease and how to march. We were forced to dress in military uniform, learning about the “P line” and how to match your shirt line with your belt line, with your pant line. We also learned how to make a military bed, how to clean latrines (Mom would be proud) and what was an acceptable haircut. We were required to participate in various classes on military law, military justice and military history. 

As a young man I had never experienced anything like it. The goal of the military drill sergeants was to create an airman, one who was no longer classified as a civilian. Civilian life was over, at least for the next four years. We were to look like, sound like, think like and react like a trained military soldier. 

I’ve been told a number of times that as a dedicated Christian I am not living in the “normal” world.  Or, that I am “brainwashed.” There are times that I know I can take those comments as a compliment and at other times they trouble me. I guess it depends on who is making the remark. 

But here’s an honest observation: If the military thought they could make a soldier out of me by teaching a totally new way of life, then I believe Christ can make a disciple out of me by teaching me His way of life. It takes a renewed mind, a mind that transitions to believe His normal revealed throughout His word, the Bible. 

Am I now brainwashed or is my mind being renewed (see Romans 12:2) to think God’s thoughts and to learn to obey His voice? In the military, I had no choice but to do things their way–the military way. And when I discover God’s way, I also discover the best way, the trusted and safe way that now becomes my normality.

Do not be ashamed if you are accused of being different. You are supposed to be different: look differently, think differently, act differently and respond differently. God’s nature is to become your nature. Embrace the difference and be Christ’s soldier, proud to serve in His army!

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

II TImothy 2:4
Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, History, Identity, In the news, Issues of the Day

Who Gets to Speak the Final Word?

I was sitting in a fourth grade elementary school class when our teacher was called out to the hallway. When she returned she was crying, telling us between sobs that the President of the United States had been assassinated. After she defined the word “assassinated,” we readied ourselves to return home as she announced an early dismissal. 

Devastating news, for sure, that went around the world quickly. But there was another celebrity that died that very same day–the British author C.S. Lewis, an intellectual defender of the Christian faith. 

C. S. Lewis was an author of many books that are now classics like: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Lewis spent most of his earlier years as an atheist. But he began to realize that God was “closing in on him.” He discovered the joy he was missing in life would be found in the faith he had resisted. 

Lewis was a rather shy professor of literature at Oxford and Cambridge universities and he passed from this earth in the shadow of another, His death hardly registered on the news blips of the day. 

Another personal hero of mine died in the shadow of a famous celebrity. Mother Teresa passed from this world the day before Princess Diana’s extravagant funeral. It’s no secret that Princess Diana, who was a friend of Mother Teresa, would steal the limelight from a woman who had given her life to the poor and the needy. It is said that Mother Teresa could carry all of her life possessions in a five-gallon bucket. 

These death eclipses seem unfair, but don’t they speak to how the godly live their lives? It’s not our life that we are lifting up but rather, Christ’s. Even Paul the apostle said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” 

While the world celebrates the rich and the famous, God celebrates the obedient, the humble and the servant. Recently, during the highest holy days of the Christian faith, The New York Times had a headline article titled, “In This TIme of War, I Propose We Give Up God.” It was just one more anti-God diatribe.

That article reminded me of a 1966 Time magazine cover article announcing God was, in fact, dead. A few years later that same magazine had a cover article titled, “The Jesus Revolution.”

Let’s let God have… THE FINAL WORD.

Standard
History, Issues of the Day

It’s a Ponzi Scheme

It was 1920 and the scheme netted him a cool 15 million dollars in just eight months. It’s a scandalous story and it would begin a movement that extends into today’s world.

Charles came up with a unique opportunity for investors when he would buy an asset in one market and sell it at a higher price in another market, or so his story went. After he explained his transaction to his gullible investors, he did not, at the same time, inform them he had no way to sell his product, keeping his investors money. Not being too inept, he was sure to have a payout for the initial investors in order to get the money rolling and attract new customers.

He called his new business The Security Exchange Company and he promised a 50-percent return in interest within 90 days. Lines of people began to form outside his office and he began to bring in a million dollars a week. What was really happening was that older investors were paid the return on their money from newer investors, a pyramid scheme at its best.

Who was this man? Charles Ponzi. He ended up in prison and eventually died penniless. His name, however, infamously lives on and has become the term for swindlers and pyramid scheme masters. Often repeated to this day, “It’s a Ponzi scheme.”

The book of Proverbs in the Bible has a lot to say about money. To the Charles Ponzis of the world, it says this:

Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it.

Dishonest money will not remain:

Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

And, to the persons who are targeting or exploiting certain people today through schemes of dishonesty, God’s word reveals:

He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich–both come to poverty.

A misinformed gentleman called me the other day about helping someone in England who had been “beat up and robbed losing all their money and their passport.” Have you heard that story before? 

I don’t know about you, but these types of stories bother me, especially when it comes to the most vulnerable. Take the time to inform others in your life to not fall prey to such immoral and appalling schemes. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are lost each year by such schemes and persons in the church can be susceptible to schemes which are “too good to be true.” Let’s help to protect one another. 

Standard
Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

How to Provide Critical Input and Feedback

I’d venture to guess that most of us like talking more than we like listening. Counselors are paid to listen, but for the majority of us, we’d rather express our opinion versus listening to another’s. 

Having written a number of books and plenty of articles and published well over 600 blogs, I have, without trying, widely opened the door for feedback, push back, criticism and opinion. When I write something like a book I embrace the input of others, their corrective feedback and their helpful, critical eye. Using what I call pre- readers makes for a better book. Having hand-selected persons who I know will read the material and will also be willing to give me honest and fair input is invaluable.

By the time a book goes through editing and then proofing, being scoured for theological correctness and cultural sensitivity, etc., the author is ready to be done with it. This process can take several years and can be somewhat grueling.

Our first widely published book, Called Together, was featured in a magazine article about methods of premarital counseling. It was great to see it featured and to read the positive article about its effectiveness. One month later came the letters to the editor. While most were positive, one was extremely negative. It was obvious the writer of the letter never read the book, but those toxic and inaccurate words were already out there and I could not retrieve them or add a rebuttal. 

The same is true with online reviews where books are sold. While many are positive, there are those who criticize your work and give you one-star ratings for the most trivial things. Once again, authors cannot provide a rebuttal or even go on the offensive to somehow set the record straight. You have to learn to take the good with the bad and not lose sleep over it. 

Articles and blogs are somewhat unusual because it’s much easier to be critical of these than it is a book, primarily because of their shorter length. My experience with this type of writing is a bit different. Let me explain.

Negative responses from your audience might begin with a question. You, the author, do your best to provide an answer. This then provokes another question or two which are often not related to your response to their first question. You once again attempt to not be defensive, take the question as sincere and provide an answer. Now the tone begins to change and you begin to pick up that the questions were leading and a ruse for what is to come.

The next expression is pushback and criticism of your written piece. If you as the author continue to try and respond, the critic can easily become venomous, strongly opinionated and letting you know rather loudly that they are right and you are clearly wrong. The whole thing begins to break down and starts to feel really bad.

The worst part is this is normally not a person who when reading your many blogs or articles ever writes back with a positive comment or word of encouragement. This type of person is waiting for you to slip up and wander off into one of their sacred cows. And this criticism from the critic whose only goal is to prove you wrong by their expertise or life experience, is really to ridicule you and tell you how wrong you are. It is typically pretty unfair, undesired and often unprovoked. 

Most likely there will be nothing productive from the conversation and it will become more and more toxic along with the possibility of it also becoming anger-filled. 

How should we respond and give critical input to an author?

There are respectful and acceptable steps we can take that do not create further offense, hurt and anger. Let me share a few helpful steps with you. These are steps that I have incorporated into my life as well.

  1. Know your boundaries. Stay within your field of ministry or expertise. (See II Corinthians 10:12-18.)
  2. Earn the right to speak into another’s life and what they write. If at all possible, make sure of the health of the relationship first. This builds trust which allows truth to be spoken without taking offense.
  3. Thoroughly read what is written. Do not allow a word in the piece to cause you to emotionally react. Try to be sure the author is saying what you think they are saying and do your best to not only read words but to hear their heart.
  4. Find the positive. What can you agree with and then include this in your comments.
  5. If you don’t understand something, then humbly ask the author for further clarity. Perhaps you are misreading the piece.
  6. Questions to the author that are leading in nature will be picked up by the author and you will be setting yourself up for a defensive response. Stay away from leading questions. These are questions with an agenda attached to them, e.g., “You don’t really mean what you are saying about ______, do you?”
  7. Give your input through your experience or knowledge humbly. The author will receive it when it is felt that it’s coming from a genuine experience and a genuine heart of humility.
  8. Do not keep the dialogue going beyond one or two responses. It just gets defensive after that. If there is disagreement, let it go.

You can do all these steps without being defensive or argumentative. A know-it-all response will come across as not legitimate, but rather arrogant.

When responding, keep these verses in mind:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col. 3:12-14)

 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col. 4:6)

I hope this will help to give improved and more gentle responses in a sincere effort to be a builder in conversation keeping the admonishments in mind from the above listed scriptures.

Standard