Tag: Relationships

Be clear about your values to help prevent a ‘Patchwork Self’

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Being One
BY DANIEL GRISWOLD
danielgriswold@gmail.com
November 6, 2013

In mathematics, an “identity” is an equation that is valid for all its variables.
For a human, the definition is similar. A quick search on Dictionary.com shows that most of the definitions of the word “identity” tend to assume “oneness.” For example: “the condition of being oneself or itself, and not another” and “the sense of self, providing sameness and continuity in personality over time.”

I first started thinking consciously about identity when I was taking classes in youth ministry with Dean Borgman, and he asked us to read David Elkind’s book, “All Grown Up and No Place to Go: Teenagers in Crisis,” which describes a disease of identity known as the “patchwork self.” This is a condition that happens to teens, or any age group, when they are under great stress without guides and relationships that encourage wholeness of self. This wholeness is inclusive of one’s value system and how one acts in the world according to those values.

The patchwork self is one who never created one homogenous set of values, and thus, acts according to whatever the norm is in the group they are in. An example would be a businessman who extorts money from a company with fellow co-workers, then chastizes children for stealing at the grocery store.

So why is this a problem? Why is it bad that people act differently with different groups? Isn’t that just part of getting along? I’m not talking about what brand of soda you like, or what type of frosting should be on the cake. I’m talking about the big things in life that require us to dig deeply into our value system and make decisions appropriately. These decisions forge new destinies.

One image of this that really got my attention was in the movie “Valkyrie,” starring Tom Cruise as a man who is charged by a secret party to assassinate Hitler. After the assassination attempt, communications would be sent telling the outside world that Hitler was dead. When the attempt came, they relayed the false message, and began relaying all the information that a new government had been set up.

A problem arises — Hitler is not dead. He restores communications and sends out messages to arrest the group. The communications hub receiving these transmissions then has to make a decision. Orders are going out for arrests of both sides. It is utter chaos. The leader of the hub is either committed to Hitler and his government (that is killing people and perpetuating war) or the opposition’s node and a revolutionary.

Either way, neutrality means losing. How is one supposed to be trusted if a simple decision cannot be made? In times of uncertainty, who leads? Sometimes situations require us to decide who we are and where we stand. It causes stress until the moment a decision is made.

What are your values? What is important? What decision would you have made?

In the letter written by the Apostle Paul to the Romans he states, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” He’s calling us to unify ourselves in common goodness with God’s purposes.

Meditate on these words for some time, and begin to think through the question: “Who am I?” and “What makes me who I am?” If chaos ensues, begin to work it through — take some time.

Sometimes there are patches on us that we didn’t know were there. The point is to discover and find the oneness that the definition of identity entails. And when you’re well along that trail, perhaps you can help a few others start that road and have fun doing it.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

Read more here: http://www.islandpacket.com/2013/11/06/2765209/be-clear-about-your-values-to.html#storylink=cpy

Is Sex Addiction Real?

With recent scandals (Arnold S in California and Weiner’s sexting) the term “Sex Addict” is coming to the fore.  According to this ABC news article, 1 in 17 adults claim to have a sex addiction.  This is not defined as merely as someone who wants sex a lot, but rather, is someone who has a compulsion towards sexual activity taking risks to fulfill the compulsion that may harm themselves or others.  The harm can be relational, physical, or emotional.  In the case of politicians, it appears that they continue in their risk taking simply because “they can.”  When they get caught, they seek treatment while trying to hold onto the brambles of their career.

A quote from that same ABC article struck me:

The internet and social networking provides an easy way for sex addicts to act on their temptation, experts said.

“It allows for early access, affordable access and anonymous access,” Samenow said. “The internet has caused a huge boom in our business. Unfortunately…it’s the crack cocaine of sex addiction.”

A healthy sex life has many elements for any human being.  The first is having an understanding of what context Sex belongs.  When there is no fence for our mind, we wander.  The beginning of discipline starts in childhood as we grow into puberty and have guidance from parents and role models who interact with us as we experience the often scary changes that sexual maturity bring.

The issue of sex addiction is two fold based on the deterioration in social structures at the early ages in the swirling chaos of American cultural drift.

(1) Adults now idolize Adolescence.  Many perceive their youth (thanks to the romanticization of film and music) as the best times in life.  Nothing to do, restless and the “unlimited” resources of our parents.  Unearned wealth simply given. Now that the youth have gone into adulthood, they yearn to be “free” again.  Free of a job, free from children and free from their own personality.  They throw down the fences and sexuality is released from the discipline it once had.  We reclaim the awkwardness of “innocence” and live as a teen perpetually throwing off the responsibilities of adulthood.  Unfortunately, without fences, anything from food to sex to relationships have the potential to become compulsions.  More, rather than Appreciate, becomes the rally cry.  Everyone is BORED, and enough is never enough.

(2) The fences come down and lack of discipline becomes a cycle.  If adults don’t model good discipline in sexuality (or anything else for that matter) the children play out the drama of the older generation as if it is dogma. Without fences the generations drift.  Ethics go out the window (because the basis of ethics is the discipline of the good person, without which society demolishes itself), and horrors become more normal.  We just shake our heads unable to comprehend how things got so bad.  It started when we decided that the fence didn’t matter.  Drop ethics even for one generation and we open ourselves to more compulsion.  The eyes you see when a child simply has no comprehension of right or wrong, the eyes of a child filled with anger and confusion, the eyes of an adult who has grown up with no direction except towards production of goods for the consumption of goods in a never ending cycle – these eyes become more common.  Without ethical grounding the homeless are beaten, sexual slavery returns to our cities, children are murdered because they are unwanted and we convince ourselves that there is nothing we can do.  We aren’t the murderers or the pimps, right?

The solution starts in the infancy of a new generation and it continues through the maturation to adulthood.  The abandonment of each new generation needs to stop.  Parenting needs to return as a form of art and excellency centered around the nurture and discipline of the young.  Discipline, meaning that there are fences. A safe space to grow and make mistakes, but always brought back to the center for a lesson.

In the case of sexuality, to stave off sex addiction, parents should continue to struggle to communicate values that are important.  Basic respect for other humans is at the center of this.  If we loved all people and tried to make sure we treat every person with dignity we would not even see the paths of compulsion.  Pornography would not be used because it uses the form of another person impersonally for a sexual high much like a drug.  It devalues everyone who is on the opposite end.  The proper place for sexuality would be after the intimacy of a mutual relationship and I posit that the real commitment of marriage (not the charade of marriage that some people put on as entertainment or as a rite of passage rather than a holy connection) is a pre-requisite before the bed.

Only in true intimacy, based on a strong devotion to God in faith in God’s ability to weather our storms, can a relationship model of positive love, and in that context – positive sex – be given to a generation that is dying in confusion because nothing seems trustworthy.  And we cant preach this without living it ourselves.  People don’t trust marriage because it has been thrown away by the people who should have been fighting to keep it right with all their strength.

Even if you fight a million wars across the globe and make the world safe, if we lose our souls in the process, everything will be destroyed anyway.  Like any addiction, sex addiction stops when one person decides to make some good fences and live inside the boundaries, recognizing that we are not God and are not capable of handling infinity without help.

For those who are already in the throes of addiction, there is hope and treatment is much like any other addiction.  A simple Google search on the issue will bring up many resources.  Here is one that looks notable: http://www.sexhelp.com/

I <3 My Wife

It has almost been 8 years being with my wife Amanda and I am still madly in love.  We don’t have any kids but we have a few hundred youth from different times and places.  We have spend 2 years together at Flagler college, 4 years in seminary in MA, and almost 2 years in Hilton Head Island, SC.  That time includes the meshing of our lives so her friends have become my friends and mine have become hers.  We have prayed for each other and have seen God’s good work in different congregations and have found the good people of God’s Kingdom in all of them.  I believe we are blessed beyond comprehension, because this year we bought our first home.  Amanda has her craft and workout room, I have my office and we spend a lot of time watching Smallville in our cozy living room on the big brown couch.  I am completely in love and despite it being my birthday today – I may let it also be Valentine’s day too.

I love you Amanda. -Dan

Should We Worry About Marriage? I do.

Over the last two days, I began seeing various tweets about the decline of marriage.  The first came from Christianity Today, then I noticed the New York Times had some polls going, and I saw this: Click here –  Go ahead and click there and vote in the unscientific poll and you will see that around 60% of people say that marriage may pass away as our values evolve, rather than Marriage being central to a healthy society.  In the public mind, there seems to be no consequence should marriage itself completely disappear.

It seems that according to that poll, and various data is also showing that Marriage is declining as a desirable norm, and that statistically, those in poorer and middle class families are more and more deciding that marriage is not in their future.   Various data shows that cohabitation, single motherhood, and divorces are becoming more the norm.  As a minister to youth this worries me because I see how all these things make life harder for the kids.  Children who have a loving and present mother and father have a more solid foundation than children who have absent parents, parents they see only once in a while, or living with people who have no binding commitment to hold them together.  Ultimately, to know who they are and develop well, children need to feel safe – relationally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

It seems that there is a growing sense of animosity towards the institution of marriage in general.  Lately political battles have broken out about what marriage actually is,  who can legally be married, and on television – liberation from bad marriages is a popular story mover.  I suppose this is because divorce, bad marriages, and separations means more drama for the viewer.  I do think this entertainment seeps into how we see our selves.  Being married myself, and seeing how awesome it is, I often wonder why our culture can’t seem to get a hold of the idea of what a Good Marriage is. I

It is definitely not this simple:

But it really isn’t that hard either.  The giving up of oneself for the other is the foundation living well together.  I know our culture isn’t good about giving up oneself and giving unconditionally, but it is one of the most advanced moral things we can do as human beings.  Going back to that poll, that talks about evolving past the value of marriage, I wonder what we would be evolving toward?  What is greater than what is modeled in a good marriage?  What is above Selfless Love?  Again, I am worried, that we aren’t evolving towards anything – but rather, just giving in to whatever we want at any given moment without any particular ideal in mind.  Experience shows, that if we don’t have an image of the ideal, people wander and while wandering – people get lost.

People need to be together, but more than just online

People need to be together, but more than just online

By DANIEL GRISWOLD
Published Monday, November 1, 2010

I remember the first time I saw someone using a social network. It was in the college library, and a cool kid was using a site called MySpace. I noticed a box in the lower righthand corner labeled “friends,” and every once in a while this girl would click on the picture of a person, then leave a comment. It was almost like collecting baseball cards of your friends.

I was fascinated, so I immediately sat down to create an account. It was about connecting with friends and I loved it. Quickly, I found 50 friends online through their e-mail addresses and became part of an online group.

The heart of social networking is about being together. While it starts at the computer, conversations soon spill into real life. Even when you are face to face, you talk about what you posted on Facebook. And when a phone call comes through, you laugh at the latest YouTube video that your friend found, or you comment on a Scripture verse someone posted from your pastor’s sermon last Sunday.

Suddenly the notion of being together is remade.

Being together isn’t a new concept, but I think that in our busy lives, we forget how to do this simple thing. Two words we need to look at: “being” and “together.”

Often, we think that “being” means getting all our “to dos” done, or working a lot of extra hours, basically the idea that we are what we do. It’s good to make a name in the community, but when the end of the day feels like a whirlwind, and we lay down in bed just barely gaining breath, there is a problem.

“Being” is bigger than our “to dos” — it is the sum of everything that makes a person a person and not a tree or a chipmunk. It is the thoughts, the stories, the emotions, the places visited, the images of oneself, the choices we make and the people we love. “Being” is a conversation with ourself — and to understand it, we need quietness, and brief moments (or long sabbaticals) of time to remember who we are. A life not reflecting on itself will act on impulse and fall apart in its inconsistencies.

The second word is “together.” It is when you venture from the refinement of solitude to give from what God’s given you, back to God and to others.

Growing up in a warm and caring church, I knew what togetherness meant in full. Jesus himself talked about “The Kingdom of God,” and I believe one of the greatest outward expressions of the love of the church (at least that I knew as a child) was the pot luck.

Basically, everyone who was able to cook would bring something to eat to the church table. There would be three types of baked beans, four types of casseroles, macaroni salad with and without onions, green beans, squash and an infinite supply of chocolate chip cookies as well as my favorite — pink ambrosia.

To a growing kid, there was no greater expression of love than the chocolate chip cookie and pink ambrosia, and being surrounded by the adults who were able to make such glorious creations. Being together at the church is necessary because, while you can entice someone with a picture of a cookie on the Internet, you have to be face to face in order to give it to that person.

God bless the ladies of the church.

How interesting that MySpace isn’t the dominant social network any longer. A recent bottom line analysis was made of MySpace, saying “the emphasis will be on entertainment and celebrities, rather than friends.” How unfortunate, as they have missed a basic understanding of why social networking is popular. The core need is this: People just want to be together.

Whether at church, online or at the coffee shop — we need each other.

Read more: http://www.islandpacket.com/2010/11/01/1428317/people-need-to-be-together-but.html#ixzz14HsCtpzs

Pastor’s Corner – Sometimes the world needs a reminder there’s good news

Sometimes the world needs a reminder there’s good news

By DANIEL GRISWOLD
Published Monday, October 18, 2010

Some countries get a lot of news coverage: Russia, China, England, Australia and Canada, to name a few of the major ones. But Chile? I hadn’t thought much about that nation until recently when news media began focusing on what seemed to be just another run-of-the-mill mining tragedy. A mine had collapsed and rescuers were frantically searching for survivors. It wasn’t until it was discovered that miners had, in fact, survived the collapse and were trapped deep below the surface that it became a different story.

For the weeks that followed this discovery, global audiences watched the news each night to see how the effort to save the men was progressing. The suspense gripped us because we know that people rarely survive these types of disasters. Was it possible the miners could go crazy, like in an episode of “X-Files”? How would their hope hold out? How could they be saved when they were so far below the surface? After seeing how quickly stories can go from bad to worse — such as the Gulf oil spill — one had to wonder what the future held for the trapped miners. We all hoped for the best, but there was a very real possibility this could turn to horror.

Then these men were saved.

A drill reached the miners and created a hole big enough to send down a container to save the crew, one man at a time. Chile celebrated, the families of the crew rejoiced, and the world watched as prayers from across the globe were answered. Who ever thought these hard-working men would have their faces in every home with a television? They’re now famous for remaining patient while waiting to be saved.

I remember someone once saying why the musical group The Carpenters was so well-received at their debut: “The world was ready for something good.” After so much angst, so many failures, so many disasters — from Hurricane Katrina, to the great loss of life in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the harm the spilled oil has done to the Gulf — we were all in need of good news.

All bitterness in the past is put aside for now, because the world has found goodness — a reminder of our beginnings, when God made man and woman and felt satisfied with what he had created.

We were made in God’s image and we need reminders that despite the threat of the walls collapsing, and darkness overwhelming us in our ordinary lives, there is something within us that helps us get through tough times. It is in our makeup, and though we have screwed up in the past and continue to make mistakes, we are also capable of great things.

Our faith in a good future is an important thing.

Jesus rocked the disciples, when he said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

In commissioning them to do greater things, Jesus told them they would perform miracles; they would speak a new message of hope to the world, of a place where God’s goodness is shown, and people work together to end evil and destroy the darkness.

It is good to have heartwarming stories like the rescues in Chile because it gives us hope.

It is also a good reminder to the people of the church that the world is still looking for good things, and the love of Christ is the greatest thing of all.

Read more: http://www.islandpacket.com/2010/10/18/1412275/sometimes-the-world-needs-a-reminder.html#ixzz130VJ4yRq

On Rational Faith

Today I was at a meeting with some of the men from my church, and we were talking about life, and living – just regular stuff.  Because it is a group of Christian men who are all working on our personal journeys of faith, I found myself analyzing quickly “Why I believe”.  Specifically in God, but also in the universe and seeing it as God’s craftwork, and in humanity and our ability to think and believe in things.

Some people would just say that “I just believe” and that they have no reasons and perhaps do because its been passed down through the generations to them.  Some people say “I feel that God is real” and base their belief in emotional experiences where God met them and changed their life in an impacting way.  Some people are skeptics and believe despite their obvious struggles, and they challenge other believers when their faith is stagnant.  There are obviously many different ways to believe, and many probably not mentioned here.

I thought, at this moment, “Why do I believe?”  It caught me off guard for a second, because I live my life now under the assumption that God exists, is in control, and that I work for God as a vocation but also as one small part in the community of Christ.  I am a believer.   If I could freeze that moment in time though (and it was only a few seconds), I had to rediscover why I believed.

At times in my life I have believed on an emotional premise, as I poured my heart to God not at first by desire, but by necessity.  I had an innate need to realize I was not the center of the universe in my teen years, and that everything I was trying to control and in the middle of emotional turmoil I found great healing through the Spirit of God emptying me of despair and filling me with hope.  It wasn’t really weakness that brought me to my knees, but something mysterious within that led me to pour out my soul and decentralize my understanding of self.

Throughout the college years I continually tested my faith and the faiths of the world in a rigorous Religion/Philosophy degree.   I dealt with the question “Is this true?” and played the skeptic, while simultaneously believing.  During this period I was at odds with just about everyone in the community of faith.  I put aside my parents faith as I discovered my own identity.  I was in contention with the views of my professors despite their brilliance, and I was always side stepping what was presented and in a perpetual “What if?” kind of state.  My peers were much more skeptical than I, and studied religion more for its sociological significance.  I did too, but it was deeper for me.  I wasn’t looking at other people, rather, I was looking at myself and asking “Why?”  In college that seems to be the main thing that we learned.  The ability to ask a question and seek out the answer, though I think more questions were presented than answers would ever come.  I desired to discover more.

Seminary was about knowledge.  I determined that my feelings and beliefs were for one reason or another close to the evangelical in spectrum.  Not in its most conservative or most liberal branches, but I wanted to know orthodox (as in the faith of Christianity through the ages, not actual Orthodox church) Christianity, and since I didn’t believe in transubstantiation or the application of celibacy in the priesthood among a few other things, I would seek out Protestant Evangelicalism.  I wanted to KNOW my faith, and to KNOW it well.  Four years of seminary prepared me to find answers to my questions.  It also prepared me to know that there is mystery in faith, and some things are beyond our own experiences.  I learned why the scriptures are reliable in their sources, and when seen through good lenses, we can find truth about humankind’s relationship with God.  I learned Greek and Hebrew, and translated from old and new testaments that had been put together rigorously from various codices, scrolls, and cross checked sources from antiquity.  I began to trust the texts more and more and saw how the Trinity, though seemingly fabulous beyond my understanding, is attested to by imagery in the scriptures at the Baptism of Christ.  The father, the son, and the Holy Spirit are together – but are one in the Heavens, the skies, and the earth.  I studied the faith, and realized how much one can know (and still feeling like I know nothing at all).  I continue this study of the faith today.

So where does that bring me now?  In the moment I mentioned previously, how do I relate to my faith now?  It is still emotional like in the beginning, it is passed down from my parents (but not my parent’s faith), it is a tested faith with a hint of skepticism that keeps me searching for real truth, and grounded in solid methods of finding answers through ancient and modern sources including people living the faith today.  I have all that behind me, and yet I am at a different step than I once was.  At that moment I realized that my faith is the mish mash of all these things.  All encompassing of who I am.  My understanding of God underpins my understanding of self – and self worth comes not from my own success or failure but from God – who has no failures, and whose activity is always successful.

My faith is about deep thinking while feeling – it is about searching and holding onto something that is beyond what pop culture and consumption can bring us.  This deep within me is beyond the questions that distract us from what seems to me to be evidence that God created all things, that God wished to create a people who would take care of the created universe, and that despite the imperfections of us as a people, God is constantly reaching out and asking people to come back and trust in goodness – in a positive view of him – and in the wholehearted, wholeminded, and wholehanded devotion that goes where God goes, sees what God sees, and seeks to help all people realize that they have dignity not just because they are a wonderful creation, but because God loves them so much that we are each allowed to exist (rather than to not exist at all).  To me that is a beautiful start to the faith.  Existence is a chance to be with God through challenge and prosperity, pain and pleasure, all through our lives.

I am a rational being, not tricked by a shaman, or trying to trick others into believing something I know isn’t true.  I have read about humankind’s experience with God, how He destroyed the fake gods that people make with their own hands and minds, and how those who have faith in him in past and the present have a great future, when their trust isn’t just in our abilities to change the world, but in the One who made us to change the world.