Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts

Friday, February 12, 2021

One last lesson from Ravi

Until recently, Ravi Zacharias was a hero of the Christian faith. If you happen to be in the dark about him, he was the world's most well-known apologist, but recent investigations have revealed that he engaged in unknown numbers of immoral and illegal sexual sins before his death. In the next few days or weeks, there will likely be a slew of people, including well-known Christian leaders, who will comment on what happened and the lessons we should learn from this situation. I want to talk about a lesson that you likely won't hear anywhere else, but I would argue it's the most important because it can have the greatest effect on reducing the number of victims.

By all accounts, Ravi was more disciplined, devout, and virtuous than most other people, including others in ministry. He had a stellar reputation, which he seems to have genuinely earned (which does not justify placing someone above reproach). There's a lot about Ravi and this situation that I do not know, but I do know psychology, and things like this don't just happen overnight. They develop over time in a slow progression of seemingly harmless acts or minor sins (see hedonic treadmill and related terms).

If someone like Ravi can do such evil, SO CAN YOU!
 The Bible tells us as much when it says that the heart is deceptive above all else (Jeremiah 17:9) and no one is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). Or as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn says in The Gulag Archipelago, "the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." I am reasonably certain that 30 years ago, Ravi would have scoffed at the idea that he would ever commit such terrible sins. My hope is that people recognize that under the right circumstances, they too are capable of committing equally terrible acts.

Realistically, it's almost certain that anyone reading this, or anyone else for that matter, will not sin to the degree that Ravi did. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be on guard. Adultery is more likely, but the number of people who buy sex from someone who's been trafficked against their will or view illegal pornography (underage or non-consensual) is probably much more common than most people think. It doesn't have to be sexual sin either. Drunk driving, stealing (even "small" things like office supplies from work), violent anger, addiction (drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.), 

We like to think that our moral beliefs and character will prevent us from doing evil, but it's not enough. Beliefs and character are good and necessary, but they're not enough. Every atrocity committed throughout world history was largely done by normal, "good" people. Sure, there were evil people at the top and people who dissented, but most of the common soldiers who carried out the evil deeds were well-intentioned, normal people. Psychological experiments such as the Milgram experiments, Stanford prison study, and many more have repeatedly shown that "good" people can do great harm given the right situation, and this includes becoming active perpetrators (not just passive conformers).

Thankfully, we aren't helpless victims, doomed to become perpetrators at the drop of a hat. Contrary to popular notions, the most powerful thing we can do is to NOT only depend on the strength of our own character. We can and should grow our character, but the most potent preventative measures are in external resources. Ironically, using external measures will form your character in positive ways, creating a synergistic effect.

When I say external resources, I am referring to people, things, or actions that help us avoid the first steps of sin so they never even have the chance to escalate into much bigger sins (sexual sins are the obvious ones, but this applies to others as well). There are countless things you can do so I will only give a few examples. 

  1. Give your spouse complete access to all your accounts, phone(s), and computer(s). If unmarried, give this access to one or more of the people closest to you (who will encourage moral behavior). 
  2. If needed, put a porn lock or filter on your devices, keep your computer in a public place, and if you are constantly failing in this area, get rid of your smartphone. 
  3. Stop ingesting or limit consumption of all negative forms of media. It doesn't just have to be media that is sexualized, but anything that promotes or normalizes. This may include social media (and who you follow on it) or even the nightly news for some people. We all have different temptations so don't compare yourself to others. Know your own weaknesses and focus on avoiding those. 
  4. If married, don't be alone with members of the opposite sex (or limit it to rare occasions). Don't talk bad about your spouse to others, especially members of the opposite sex (address those issues with your spouse and/or a therapist). If living alone, get a roommate who can hold you accountable. Likewise, if traveling for business, see if you can share a room with a co-worker rather than each getting your own room.
  5. You can also learn more about how sins start or grow. The book His Needs, Her Needs does this pretty well in the context of adultery. Fight the New Drug has lots of information on how pornography is harmful to people who consume it, make it, and society. Understanding these things better can help you better prevent sins.
  6. Stop tolerating or rationalizing things you do that are just small sins or things you know are probably wrong. Examples might include speeding, looking at porn or fantasizing about people you're not married to, cheating on your taxes, pirating digital media (music, movies, books, etc.), getting drunk, name-calling or using dehumanizing language (common on social media), using your phone while driving (illegally, but even legal use is arguably wrong in most circumstances), and others.
  7. If you are in a position of power (or as you gradually achieve these positions), distribute your power where you can, put precautions in place to keep your ego in check, create an atmosphere of openness and respect, and train the people you lead how to appropriately question authority.
  8. No matter how big or small your failure is, repent and confess it to someone. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes. Do it now and don't skip confessing to someone. When sins stay in the dark, that's how they grow and lead to more and more sins. 
  9. Surround yourself with virtuous people. If you spend time with people who act virtuously and that is the norm of the group, you will be much more likely to adopt and internalize those values so that you will grow in virtue rather than in vice. 

My final suggestion, which Christians should do anyway, is to donate money sacrificially. Why? The things Ravi did can scarcely happen without fairly large amounts of excess money (which Ravi had personally and had access to through the ministry). It's unlikely anyone reading this will ever have the power or opportunities that Ravi had, but most who read this either have or will have enough money to make some really bad choices and probably the occasional opportunity to do so.

Ravi was on a pedestal, which was one of many factors that contributed to his actions and allowed him to get away with it. No one should be on a pedestal so high they are not questioned, however, I want to challenge you not to put yourself on a pedestal either. Have the humility to recognize your potential weaknesses and put measures into your life to prevent you from even starting down a dangerous road. Being a morally upright and virtuous person right now is not a guarantee that you will continue to be this way in the future. It helps, but it's no guarantee.

Flee from sexual immorality.

- 1 Corinthians 6:18 (NIV) 


“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

- Matthew 5:27-30 (NIV)

Monday, September 23, 2019

12 Rules for Life Book Review

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jordan Peterson came to fame rather suddenly a few years ago because of a political controversy, but he's more than just a pop-sensation. He's a legitimate clinical psychologist who understands human beings better than the typical therapist. The book was helpful for me in understanding humans, including my own kids. It was filled with good recommendations for personal well-being, parenting, marriage, and other areas of life.

The book itself is written in Peterson's trademark manner. It's direct and to the point, but also sensitive and thoughtful. At times, it is a little bit of an over-the-top brain dump of seemingly unorganized thoughts, which is ironic since the subtitle is "An Antidote to Chaos." Despite this, I was still able to follow along by listening to it on Audible at an increased speed.

Content aside, the book was simply enjoyable to listen to. Peterson is a great storyteller and he can effectively weave together many trains of thought into one. I was interested in what was being said at every moment of the book and thought about re-reading it immediately after I finished it.

The content of the book was also informative and interesting. I think many of my Christian friends might not appreciate Peterson's continual mentioning of evolution, but I don't think it hurts the case he makes in his book. When he says millions of years of evolution have shaped people to behave a certain way, the same conclusion, and perhaps even a more powerful one will be reached by assuming humans have been designed by God to behave a certain way. Similarly, he often understands the Bible or other religious texts metaphorically, which might cause some people to be dismissive, but this is unnecessary. A true historical event, especially one orchestrated by God, can also be true in a metaphorical sense, so there isn't really any conflict to be had.

The conclusions and recommendations by Peterson all seem to be supported by psychological science. Even though psychology is my field of study, I'm not necessarily an expert on all that is in the book. I did not find myself disagreeing with any of the main points of the book based on scientific evidence. Where Peterson might get into trouble, at least with some people, is his willingness to draw conclusions beyond the science. Personally, I appreciated this because he shows a deep and rigorous philosophical thought. Scientists, at least psychologists, are often unwilling to delve into philosophy for fear of drawing conclusions that are not empirical, but by doing so, they handicap themselves. Peterson's willingness to do this, and do it well, was a breath of fresh air.

As for the personal growth aspect of this book, I think it could be very helpful for some people. I think most people will think the book is enjoyable to read even if they don't get huge personal benefits from reading it. For some, however, I think this book could be life-changing for them, or at least, it could be very helpful in their lives. I would only recommend that people who want to read to book for personal growth, actually read the book instead of listening to it. If they do listen to it, don't speed it up extremely fast and pause it to reflect often, maybe at the end of each chapter. I blew through this book very quickly on audio, and it was helpful, but it would have been even more so if I stopped to reflect and understand things better. This is why I said I thought about listening a second time, which I am still considering.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to everyone. I think there's something in there for everyone. Even though the book is not Christian or religious, it fits with a Christian worldview and a non-Christian worldview.

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A man's thoughts on makeup

Yes, I am a man and I am writing about makeup, which primarily concerns women, but I am also a father of three young girls. While this article is directed mostly towards women, it is not just for women. It's also for husbands, fathers, and the men who (directly or indirectly) pressure women into wearing makeup or thinking they need it. 

Women, why do you wear it? Do you wish you had the same freedom as men to go without it? You are beautiful without it and you don't need it! I wrote this article a few months again but I thought it would be a prime time to finish it since Alicia Keys just said she is not going to wear makeup anymore. Let me try to convince you, without guilt or obligations, to (mostly) follow her example and go without makeup, or at least minimizing the amount you wear (hey, maybe you'll slowly get to the point where you don't want it anymore.).

Is it absolutely wrong to wear makeup?  Probably not, but it's certainly not ideal for Christian women. There are multiple reasons why Christian women (all women really, but objective Christian guidelines don't apply to non-Christians, even though it would be better for them, too). First off, makeup is expensive (money that could be given to the poor), putting it on is time-consuming, it has harmful side effects, demand for it objectifies women and sends the message that they are not beautiful enough without it, many women don't actually want to wear it, it is not nearly as attractive women think (especially in the all too common instances when too much is applied), and most importantly, scripture seems to imply that women should not wear it.

My wife does not typically wear makeup, and when she does, she wears very little. She is absolutely gorgeous and part of what makes her so beautiful is that she does not wear much or any makeup. Going without helps her look confident and genuine (and she really is those things, it's not just how she looks). Even though my wife hardly wears any makeup, my 5-year-old daughter has somehow got the impression that she needs to wear makeup.  Do you have any idea how heartbreaking it is for a 5-year-old to throw a fit over wearing makeup because "I want to be beautiful!" She has broken into our room several times to get into my wife's makeup just so she could "be beautiful." You may be quick to blame parenting, but I as I already mentioned, makeup is not important in our house at all. Females are bombarded with the message that they need makeup to be beautiful and males are filled with the expectation that women need makeup. Neither message is true.

Because scripture is the most important reason for not wearing makeup, let's start there. Not a single Bible verse directly uses the word 'makeup,' but the underlying justification for all the verses I will mention also applies to makeup, at least to some degree or in some cases. Proverbs 7:10 talks about the dangers of a woman dressed as a prostitute.  Now, don't misunderstand me here, I am NOT saying that makeup makes women look like prostitutes, but it is a contributing factor. Stop for a second a visualize a prostitute. I'd be willing to bet that you picture her in heels, fishnets, a short skirt, a tube top or other top with very little fabric, and lots of makeup, something which has remained somewhat consistent throughout history (1). Contrast Proverbs 7:10 with Proverbs 31:25, which says that an excellent wife is clothed in wisdom and dignity. Do you ever look at a woman with loads of makeup on and think "she is just so wise and respectable!" I didn't think so.

On a similar note, 1 Peter 3:3 and 1 Tim 2:9 both talk about women dressing modestly in terms of their clothes, hair, and jewelry. Both verses continue to say that this is so that their godly spirit can shine through. These verses are usually misunderstood to mean that women should dress modestly by covering up, but that is not what the context means at all. These verses are talking about wealth and status. Makeup, like clothes, jewelry, and expensive/time-consuming hairstyles, is expensive. We may not realize it because nearly everyone in America can afford it, but we're also rich in comparison to most the world. Generally speaking, these verses refer to external things being used to make women look beautiful and makeup is certainly an external product that women use to look beautiful. Whether or not you agree or care about the point about wealth or status, these verses still say that a woman's beauty comes from who they are, not what they look like. Makeup prevents your character from coming through and being seen. Don't hide behind an artificial mask that you don't need.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Col 3:17 NASB)


Journal Articles:
Batres, C., Russell, R., Simpson, J. A., Campbell, L., Hansen, A. M., & Cronk, L. (2018). Evidence that makeup is a false signal of sociosexuality. Personality and Individual Differences, 122, 148-154.

Bernard, P., Servais, L., Wollast, R., & Gervais, S. (2020). An initial test of the cosmetics dehumanization hypothesis: Heavy makeup diminishes attributions of humanness-related traits to women. Sex Roles, 83(5), 315-327.

Lee, H., & Oh, H. (2018). The effects of self-esteem on makeup involvement and makeup satisfaction among elementary students. Archives of Design Research, 31(2), 87-94.

Ryu, J. H., & Kim, Y. S. (2020). Influence of interest in appearance of upper elementary school student on makeup behavior and self-esteem. Asian Journal of Beauty and Cosmetology, 18(1), 17-25.

Tran, A., Rosales, R., & Copes, L. (2020). Paint a Better Mood? Effects of Makeup Use on YouTube Beauty Influencers’ Self-Esteem. SAGE Open, 10(2), 2158244020933591.