Have you been faithful to your partner? The answer may surprise you.

If you are married, on your wedding day you made a vow where you pledged your “faith, each to the other.”

But what is faithfulness in marriage?

Most people say faithfulness means not having sexual or emotional intimacy with anyone besides your spouse. And certainly that is a critical part of faithfulness. 

But, believe it or not, it’s not the most important part.

Above all, being faithful to your spouse means that even when they have angered you or hurt your feelings, you refuse to believe they are a bad person. You “keep faith” in them.

I maintain faith in my wife by remembering who she is, that I love and care for her, and that she loves me too. And if I remember she loves me, I know she would never purposely do anything to hurt me.

This means no matter how hurt or upset I may be, I cling stubbornly to my belief that my wife is a great person. I refuse to allow my negative feelings to lead me to think she’s *trying* to hurt me, or that she’s intentionally setting me up to lose an argument or to look or feel like an idiot.

It sure can feel like it sometimes though, can’t it? In certain seasons of marriage, it can sometimes feel like you’re butting heads constantly. After a while you can easily start making highly toxic assumptions about your spouse:

  • He must not really love me
  • She loves it when I look stupid
  • He doesn’t even want to talk to me
  • She’s not even trying
  • How could he/she do this to me?
  • I’ve been a fool all along thinking they were going to come through

When you allow yourself to believe any of these things about your partner, you have gone from thinking they may have said or done a bad thing to believing they are a bad person, that their desire is to do you harm.

This is why it is so important to marry a good human being, one in whom your faith can be reasonably placed. Because if you are certain your spouse has ill will toward you, then only one of two things is possible. Either you are mistaken, or you married a jerk.* 

This happens of course. Good people marry jerks all the time. And jerks marry other jerks. If you are engaged, and you are not absolutely certain that your partner is a deeply good human being who desires good things for you, turn around and run! And don’t stop until you fall into the arms of such a person.

Sometimes your spouse will lose faith in themselves. 

They will have times where they aren’t sure if they are a good person. 

When this happens, your job is to simply tell them what you know and have always known — that they are good, even if sometimes they don’t talk or act or feel like it. And their job is to do that for you.

But neither of you can do your job if you lose faith in one another, if you stop believing in each other’s good intentions.

So beyond sex, have you been faithful to your spouse? Or when things get tense, do you quickly start thinking they don’t care, and assuming bad things about them?

Keep the faith. The more you believe in your spouse’s goodness, the more you will see it in them.

*[Jerks are people too. You can care for them and have compassion for them. But you do not have to allow them into your life to spread their chaos.]

On Getting Old

I got old on Thursday.

Not last Thursday.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t a Thursday. I don’t remember, I’m old now.

But it happened that way.

In a moment. An instant.

I was getting in my car to go to work. As I often do, I connected my phone to listen to my precious music on the way.

The music filled the car. And it was fine at first.

But then it wasn’t.

I don’t mean the music. I mean the moment.

Suddenly, in that moment, the music seemed old.

I should mention that it was. 35 years or so.

It had just never sounded old to me before.
It was the music I had fallen in love with in middle school (that’s what we old folks used to call “Jr. High School,” kids).

Played on the cassette player in my first car. [See, there were these cassette tapes, and sometimes something would get mucked up and tape guts would get into your player and cause a ton of headache. You might have to get tweezers and carefully pull the guts out of your machine, stick your finger in one of the tape spools, and manually rewind the tape a little and hope it would still play and preferably not spill its guts all over your tape deck again. (We called ’em “tape decks.”)]

The music that had faithfully shepherded me through adolence, college, my first years of marriage, graduate school, raising my three babies.

It soothed, comforted, and empowered me through hours and days in my room, as I lay in bed on occasions where I could do little else but listen, praying that the MS ravaging my body would relent and leave me with any of my faculties intact. Or at least that I’d have the energy to get up and not let The Simpsons Movie play for a fourth time in the DVD player. (Remember those?)

I don’t need to explain. You have a soundtrack to your life too. And you know what it means to you.

So I knew my music was old.

But that day, all at once, it sounded its age. And at that moment, for the first time in my life, I felt my own.

Which is to say I experienced myself as the person I saw people my age as being when I was young, when that music — and everything else in the world — was new.

And it scared me. How the days are flying, how quickly I’ll be looking far into the past as I re-read this post and reflect on this moment. How I won’t actually be able to read this post at all because I won’t remember where I left my glasses.

Our girls are gone and our house is so often empty.

I’ve lost my hair and my beard is turning gray.

The lines on my face (and the hair in my ears — what?) surprise me every morning.

And for the first time in my life, I’m beginning to hear it, a ruthless hum of dread. It’s faint, but it daily grows a tiny bit louder.

The End.

Seriously, I’m done writing now. I haven’t resolved this yet. I haven’t wrapped it all up neatly into an object lesson as I am wont to do. (I’m getting older, so I say things like, “as I am wont to do”). I’m sure one day I’ll write about all the amazing wisdom I gained at this time in my life. Because I am wont to do that.

But right now, to be honest, I’m a little scared. Not of dying but of getting older. And of living to an age where I say things like, “I hope I live until next week because the new Wonder Woman movie comes out Friday.”

After all this is brand new to me, on account of having just gotten old on Thursday.

Farewell My Friend

A tribute to my dear friend Brad Lockwood

my friend brad with his wife karen

For those of you who follow this blog (which at this point is up to a rockin’ 350 of you), I’m sorry I haven’t posted in forever. It has been so long probably at least 20 of you have never seen one new post since you signed up.

The reason for this is kind of involved and I plan to write and share it with you soon. But today it is the loss of a dear friend that motivates me to sit down, get down to business, and put…er…words to screen I suppose. When I lose a friend I always feel an overwhelming drive to post about it here, to document these painful but seminal moments in time.

Most of you don’t know Brad, but he was a dear and special friend to me, one of the first really good friends I made when I entered the ministry in 1994. He was a mentor, a brother, and a man of almost inconceivable joy and positivity that lightened the lives of all who knew him. Brad impacted thousands of people with his brilliant mind and infinitely deep heart. So there’s your introduction to Brad, and here’s my tribute to him.

Brad Lockwood I love you, pal. Man, this was way too soon.

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Absence of Grace

Discovering How Brutal People Can Be

When someone makes a mistake, then apologizes for it, as far as I’m concerned, it’s done. Chances are usually that I wasn’t angry to begin with, but if I was, a sincere apology does a lot to resolve my anger and any hurt feelings I may have had. I went into the ministry and into counseling (and onto social media) assuming most people were the same way.

I was wrong. Though a good apology goes a long way for some, it seems to have almost zero effect on others.

Even after 20 years of ministry, a decade on social media, and teaching and counseling for two decades, I am still often shocked and saddened with how graceless people often are.

I apologize if this sounds like I’m elevating myself above anyone else. That isn’t my intent. I don’t take any credit for the fact that I forgive easily. It’s just the way I am. I suppose I could just have easily been wired like one of those who struggle to forgive, and I have to remind myself of that constantly.

But on a psychological level, what’s going on with people who can listen to a heartfelt apology and still respond with bitterness, or as if an apology had never been offered at all? How many times must they  have been abused or betrayed? How jaded and cynical must they have grown somehow, and through what kinds of horrible circumstances? How many years must they have spent defending their own rightness and goodness, convincing themselves of their own invulnerability to mistakes, foolery, and hurtfulness to others?

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How Liberals Tend to Misunderstand Compassion

In my last post I said conservatives often mistake compassion for weakness, and to the conservative mind, strength — if not everything — is extremely important. Strength, of course, has limitations of its own, which is another post. In this post I want to focus on the particular way liberals tend to misunderstand compassion.

In its simplest form, liberals tend to want to own that virtue, and to assume that if someone thinks differently about an issue than they do, it stems from a lack of compassion. This isn’t necessarily the case for several reasons.

First, as I mentioned in the Facebook post that kicked off this series (if you don’t follow me on Facebook, and you wonder what you’re missing, you can do so here), simply feeling deeply about something is not the same as compassion. Compassion is not an emotion, it is emotion in action. A liberal who feels strongly about something but takes no action has no right to call a conservative heartless for also not taking any action. Feeling something, again, as I have said, is not the point.

Second, I know people (both liberals and conservatives, by the way, as these labels are useful primarily for purposes of writing about individual positions, not summing up entire human beings) who do not give to homeless people out of what I believe is sincere concern for their welfare, lest they spend the money on booze or other things bad for them. Misguided as I believe this is, I do not doubt the intentions behind it. In this case, those who do not give are taking action (withholding money they would otherwise give) for the benefit of the other.

Third, liberals are often former conservatives. They may tend to confuse specifics of their time as a conservative in the past with the individual conservative they are dealing with presently. For example, I know when I was a conservative I listened to a lot of heartless people on talk radio and adopted many of those positions for myself. I may therefore make the mistake of ascribing heartlessness to a conservative I’m dealing with about a specific issue. In other words, it may have more to do with me than it has to do with that other person.

Fourth, and this is similar to the first, is that I think we liberals tend to see ourselves (for better or for worse) as the standard-bearers of morality. I’m just keeping it real. We have been through our own journeys to get where we are and we know we are better people than we were before. But it is important to keep in mind the difference between being a better version of yourself than you used to be, and being better than other people. I really think that’s a blind spot liberals often have. Conservatives sense that condescension and it rightly drives them up a wall.

If a given liberal really has moved forward on their journey to compassion, that is excellent of course, but we do not want to lose in humility what we may sometimes gain in compassion.