Get a Life (and other things today’s “mommies” and “daddies” don’t tell you)

Every now and then, I’ll pick a question (or a comment) and answer it on my blog. Today’s question is about how this person, let’s call her Drama Queen 1 (as I expect there to be more drama queens) feels bad about not fitting in, and what advice I would give her.

The simple answer is: Get a life. But while that makes perfect sense, in this highly-sensitive world we live in with people who aren’t equipped to process any truth when delivered offensively, I will provide an inefficiently long explanation.

First of all, why does one feel bad about NOT fitting in? Why does one feel bad at all? Many times, we feel bad when we don’t get what we want. When we feel bad that we don’t fit in, it reveals a desire to fit in. We feel bad because want to fit in, we want to feel accepted, we want to be validated by a certain person or group, and we want to be acknowledged, and we don’t get it. But this is where a little deep thinking would help us a lot if we would only do so. Why do we want to fit in so much with others who don’t care about us? Why is the opinion of others about us so all-important? Why is the rejection of people who probably aren’t really objectively that important to our existence so painful to bear?

Why do we want the acceptance of people who probably don’t deserve our attention anyway?

It’s because we’re empty. And it’s because we’re unthinking. We’re empty and believe we need other people to fill us. And we’re unthinking that we don’t question our belief that the acceptance of others will fill us when over and over history, and many times our own experiences have told us it’s not true.

There is no logic to people who are empty wanting their validation buckets filled with other empty people.

Instead, stop expecting others to fill you and feeling bad about it. Take responsibility for your own validation by “getting a life”.

What is a life?

Here’s a simplification of what having a life is:

– Someone who embraces his Role
– Someone who understands his Responsibility
– Someone who optimizes his Routine
– Someone who cultivates healthy Relationships
– Someone who pursues his Reason
– Someone who honestly Reflects
– Someone who humbly Repents
– Someone who achieves Results
– Someone who is generous with Rewards

And this is the beginning of a new series about “getting a life”, not the entitled, nanny-cultured, politically-correct, but a breakdown of the qualities above.


Many Weak Well-Meaning Parents Today

Now I want to explain the title. Parents play an incredibly key role in the development of their child. This should go without saying, but who knows what people actually agree with these days.

Note: Before you discount my thoughts on this on the account that I don’t have kids, remember that both Jesus and Paul, both of whom we get a lot of family wisdom from, both were unmarried and had no kids (though one could argue “the church is the bride of Christ” and “we are His children”, but the simple point is you don’t need to be a philosopher to think. In fact it matters that no matter who or what you are that you develop objective critical thinking or you become the opposite of someone who cannot objectively critically think: ignorant.

I believe that the main role of a parent is to provide loving training for their kids. By training, I don’t mean a narrow interpretation of manners, maths and sciences, tennis camps, and Sunday school. By training, I believe that the parents play an incredibly important role in Preparing Their Sons and Daughters for Liberty. What does this mean? It means preparing them to appreciate their liberty (they can choose), preparing them to harness their liberty (by making wise choices), and preparing them to enjoy their liberty (particularly through the fulfilling activities of improving oneself and loving others).

By training their kids to appreciate their liberty, if taught properly, they will also teach their kids to appreciate the liberties of others. Appreciating someone else’s liberty does not mean agreeing with their choices. It also does not mean you have to tolerate all their choices. It does mean you:

a. Understand that everyone is free to choose, including choose things I don’t agree with.

b. Understand the distinction between free choices (non-illegal choices that are more informally influenced by society) and illegal choices (choices that break the law which the government punishes you for). If I decide to have my underwear over my jeans, I would not be breaking any government rules. I would be challenging “social rules” and could be laughed at, passed-over for a promotion, and get no loving from my wife. But the reality is, in places where this is not illegal, such as my own private property, or even public spaces where it’s ok, I have the liberty to do so. But just as real, are the social consequences, such as repetitional costs, of choosing such a fashion statement. Now if I decide to take drugs, I get punished by the law if caught. I find that even “Christian” parents don’t understand that law-breaking sons and daughters will suffer the consequences of the law, and if they don’t, if they routinely break the law and are spared from the consequences of it because of some family tie or influence (as happens in the Philippines), not only is this unproductive, but unjust, and shows a significant brokenness in our justice system and understanding of justice. It doesn’t matter how many times a day we cry, fast, and pray for a better world, if we practice or promote injustice, we will reap injustice.

c. Understand that since everyone is free, controlling and coercing others to do what you want is not appreciating liberty, but we “control” others by “controlling” ourselves. We influence how others use their liberty by using our own wisely. I cannot control what my boss’s salary scales are, I can control who my boss is, where I work, the excellence of my work, and the impact of my work. How do I control myself? By choosing wisely. By not letting my choices be arbitrarily made by my reactions and appetites nor someone else’s, but being objective, being discerning, and being teachable. This is how we harness our liberty, and we must, because we’re free to choose but not free to choose our consequences.

Teaching kids these things requires parents to be informed on these topics as well. One cannot train their child to harness their liberty wisely if one does not know what liberty, wisdom, choice, and the role they plays in free society. This was probably not as required in a simpler world with limited influences. But in today’s multichannel, multi-message, and multi-influence world, parents need to be more deliberate with their own content and their own influence. Before, parents knew exactly what their kids learned because they were the primary teachers. Then they still knew exactly what they learned because they knew the village school-house teacher or the community priest. Today, kids are absorbing information from unlimited sources – sources many parents have no clue about and cannot control completely. Training a child to make wise choices in this age of unlimited choices is more important than ever.

But you cannot train people to be wise and critical thinking in a nanny-cultured, kiddy-gloved, superstitious environment. You will not be successful in training your kids to hunger for growth when your home is too comfortable. It just won’t happen. There’s a reason why statistics show that 3rd generation wealth runs out. You will not train hope in someone who has an silver-spooned life, which Warren Buffer calls a silver dagger to the back. The Bible already gives a clear path to hope, and it’s through suffering, perseverance, and character building. Yet you have parents so preoccupied with giving everything to their kids and feeling bad when they can’t afford things for them. Are they better parents for doing so? No. They’re not thinking. They’re seeing society and they’re starting with that. They’re not starting with an examined decision on what they should do to raise a person who is mature enough to handle the real world, not our man-made bubbles, but the real world that is both beautiful and dark, by making the right choices, even difficult right choices. You will not teach your kids how to make a stand, how to live by their convictions, if you’re too afraid of being rejected by them when you do a right thing that offends them.

This article is long enough, but I’d like to underscore a simple point: unthinking parents who do not train themselves for liberty by defining their principles and developing disciplines, will have a difficult time raising sons and daughters prepared for liberty. It doesn’t matter what the commercial says, your son’s future does not depend too much on how white his uniform is but on how wise his decisions are.

I realized that more and more kids will struggle with “wanting to fit in” because too many parents have not outgrown wanting to fit in themselves.

This is Why You’re Insecure

Feelings of insecurity (particularly job security) can be met with honest answers to these questions:
– Am I useful to those I seek security from? Why?

– Am I needed by those I seek security from? Why?

– Am I effective at providing what’s required? Why?

– Am I better than the alternatives they have? Why?

If you’re not useful, not needed, ineffective, and worth less than the alternatives, if your team will do fine without you because you really aren’t consistently improving things, then your insecurity is not your boss’s fault but your own. You can whine about how evil your leaders are or how terrible your circumstances are, but you’ll always be insecure. Insecurity doesn’t come from an external requirement but from an internal inadequacy. Today’s, politically correct world will tell you it’s “ok”, that the fault lies in someone else’s doing, which is not true. You’re insecure because you know that you’re not as good as the others out there. But here’s the thing, it’s not because you can’t be great. It’s because you won’t be great. You won’t fight your excuses, your self-accepted reasons for failure. You won’t stop hiding behind your cheerleaders, including your parents and “prayer warriors”. You won’t discipline yourself. You won’t better yourself. You won’t study. You won’t do the necessary boring, even painful, stuff. And that’s not ok. It’s not ok to say you want fairness yet expect others to make it happen consistently, while you only work on what you feel like. It’s not ok to want a better world and say your opinions while you stay in your bubble, safely protected by the harsh realities of those fighting it out and stay engaged, making up your own issues in your head – like “not knowing my passion”.

Stop listening to the feel good advice. If you’re more useful, if you’re more needed, if you’re more effective than the alternatives, you’ll find security.

You will never find security in the arms of today’s nanny culture, just like an adult would never find security in having a yaya. At best you’ll have pockets of artificial security, when you’re in church, when you’re in small group, when you’re at a party, when you’re drunk, when you’re at the gym, but you won’t be sustainably secure.

You’re insecure not because the world sucks, but because, in my opinion, you’re selfish. If the world really sucks, if that is its natural state, then why feel bad about it? We feel bad because we know the world should be better. Now if the world should be better, if we want a better situation, who should make it better? Others? What do you call someone who wants something better but expects others to make that better happen for him? A selfish entitled brat.

You’re not insecure because the world is a terrible place or because other people are evil. You’re insecure because you’re a brat.

Last Weekend My Site Got Hacked

Last weekend, my website, dbonifacio.com, was hacked, and it was a good thing.

Strangely, I felt very at peace with it.

I was upset with the breach in security, but for some reason I felt no emotional attachment to the hundreds of posts and drafts that were potentially lost. Unlike the first time my blog crashed, when I lost over 500 articles, I did not feel as crushed. I thought about why I responded differently this time, now that things are restored thanks to the handiwork of EP’s Justin and Paola. Here’s what I realized: My life’s work is my life itself, not simply what I’ve produced. Subconsciously, I’ve moved from evaluating my life based on what I’ve achieved and amassed to evaluating my life based on who I am becoming. The hacker could take my life’s writing, but he (or she) could never take the character I’ve cultivated and the person I’ve become. My character, who I become, is under my control.

This reminded me of a line that I repeat with the Bridge team over and over again: You cannot control anyone but yourself. You control the world by controlling yourself. It’s a concept I am determined, thought admittedly struggling, to apply to myself, this reality that I cannot control anyone or anything, and that I can only control myself. I make things happen through the level of influence I’m able to impress on others and on my environment.

I am most effective, most in control, when I am, in whatever circumstance, becoming more and more the David that is aligned with my principles. I am, to take from Socrates, being true to the self that I should be, the self I have decided upon examination of my life and the weighing of my values. The beauty of this is that, while it is affected by external factors, it is not dependent on these external factors. How I choose to be shaped by the event and by the experience is within my control.

This in turn led me to think about the moments when I hate myself most, when I feel least in control, or least effective. I am most disgusted with myself when I am not acting according to the values I have embraced. It’s when I find myself becoming more materialistic. It’s when I find myself sinking in pettiness. It’s when I allow myself to get dragged into drama with no objective. It’s when I allow myself to be offended by small minds, or, conversely, don’t allow myself to be challenged by greater minds. It’s when I am not allowing situations to humble me, teach me, improve, strengthen me, and grow me, because of some external pressure or inner pride. I hate myself most when my choices don’t reflect a proper weighing of values but a surrendering to the worse sides of me, which include giving in to both temptations and pressure – even the pressure of seemingly innocent but unprincipled or ignorant people.

My life’s work is my life itself, as seen by the character I am able to cultivate, and that character is under my control. What a freeing thing to realize. And the more I strengthen this, the more I develop my character the more I deepen my soul, the more I grow a value that cannot be taken away from me, a value I am now free to offer the right lover, God.

Last weekend, my site got hacked. And it was a good thing. It was a clear sign to change my blog and move further away from the pop-wisdom that does not show nor cares to measure the actual impact of the teaching. From the “do what you love” posts that are so popular but cannot deny that more supposedly educated people are lost today without purpose, to the financial advisories that have not statistically been able to show greater wealth generation and less inequality despite their best sellers, to the feel-good family experts and their cure-alls that can’t stop the march of broken homes and destruction of meaning in gender and authority, I realized that many of my posts are like theirs, liked but not lived, shared but not imparted. And when the world gets “worse”, when tragedy visits us, our common response is “See? Told you, you should have listened to me” instead of being self-examining and seeing where our methods, or even our messages, have been ineffective.

I don’t write to inspire. I’m not interested in follows, likes, and shares. If my life’s work is the character of my life itself, then to love others, to want them to have amazing lives is to sincerely want them to cultivate wonderful character as well. That’s what I want my writing to help achieve, and it’s the most I can hope for, because the real cultivating, the real impressive hard work, doesn’t happen on this page, but in every person’s inner victories. I don’t just want to say “God loves you” but to also say “You must love God”, and to also say, “you can’t force love but fall in love”, and to also say “you fall for beauty”, and to also say “you fall for that which you make beautiful so be careful what seeds you plant”.

I guess I’m writing for a narrow audience, an audience that won’t be impressed but will be challenged, who won’t simply lap up but ponder, seek God, and pray, who don’t see security and comfort as ultimate ends nor basis for wise decision making. I’m writing for an audience who doesn’t believe in special people: great people who have superhuman capabilities and must be worshiped and lesser people who have disadvantages and must be coddled. I’m writing for a people who believe in being compassionate without believing that people are entitled to compassion. Those are different. I’m writing for people who’ll go on their own journeys to their own who knows where, as I’ve written about in my fictional chapters. I’m writing for people that realize that God gave them a mind to use, not to surrender to the easiest idea to chew on.

In my own private writing, I find that I am more and more convicted, not so much that I do not follow tradition, but that I do not cut-off more superstition. Do I love God? I ask myself, or Do I love convenience and comfort? Do I love what is righteous more than what is expected? What do my prayers reflect?

Last weekend, my site got hacked, and it was a good thing. It affirmed that I am not my writing, but me, and it refocused my efforts on that small number of people who want more than the prescribed lifestyle sweet spot, but on achieving a character that truly glorifies God and uses their God-given freedom to enjoy Him forever.