I’m not sure where I learned this lesson, so I’m afraid I do not know who to credit. Still, this is valuable wisdom that I really think they should teach in schools.

Many people desire to be more assertive, but I think that is sometimes a vague concept, which makes it hard to do. I once heard it explained in very simple, easy to understand terms that I want to share with you.

Perhaps you have heard of the term passive-aggressive, the idea that someone is nice to your face, but then hurts you when your back is turned. So, let’s imagine there is a spectrum of behavior with Aggressive on one end and Passive on the other. Assertiveness is not just a compromise of the two, it is a third option. And all of these terms can be summed up with these phrases:

Aggressive is the attitude “I matter and you don’t matter.” People are aggressive when they hurt others for their own benefit. When the mean kids in high school tore down other people to feel good about themselves, they had the attitude they mattered and their targets didn’t. Sometimes people are aggressive when they are hurt and then they feel justified hurting that person back. “Because of what they did, they no longer matter.” Violence, insults, threats, manipulation, theft, cruelty and selfishness are aggressive because the person is only concerned about getting their needs met.

Passive is the attitude “You matter and I don’t matter.” Passive people say, “Whatever you want.” Passive people apologize when they have done nothing wrong. Passive people bend over backwards to prevent conflict or upsetting others. People are passive for a variety of reasons. They often call themselves people pleasers. Perhaps it started for noble reasons because they wanted to put others before themselves, because they did not want to be selfish, or they thought loving people means making them happy. Perhaps it was a bit more survival or emotionally based with the idea that making people happy would keep them from hurting you or leaving you. Still, the more you act like only the other person matters and you do not, the more you start to believe it. Most passive people accumulate negative self-esteem because acting like you do not matter eventually makes you feel like you do not matter.

Assertiveness is the attitude “You matter and I matter.” Assertiveness is respectful. Just because someone hurt you does not mean you hurt them back. Assertiveness is solution focused and realizes that speaking up for yourself provides vital information, listening to others provides information, and then you can find solutions that take everyone’s needs into account. Assertiveness sees the big picture. Whereas passiveness feels noble, it makes the other person into the villain. Being assertive may feel like being the bad guy, but it acts on the hope that the other person might join you in a healthy relationship. Even if they don’t, it still protects you and respects them.

And even if being assertive does not always get the outcomes you want, it usually gets you closure and moving on your way towards better things, rather than stuck in the anxiety of never-ending, unhealthy relationship patterns.

Ok, I’m going to put my head on the chopping block today. Talking about the opposite sex is a pretty dangerous thing to do for any guy who values his peace. In fact, I have already dialed back the original post I made because some people were offended at what I thought were fairly benign observations. However, I think those that are open to this message can transform their relationships, so I’ll take one for the team.

I’m just going to let this article speak for itself. Keep in mind this is not every woman or every marriage, but it does apply to some. This is a transformative story of a wife who had a difficult realization about how she used anger in her marriage. Trust me, this is something that many husbands are desperate for their wives to understand, but are too afraid to share.

Just click the link below.


I Wasn’t Treating My Husband Fairly, And It Wasn’t Fair


I was recently given the opportunity to write an article for Arise Ministries, an organization that seeks to empower single moms. They suggested I address the following question:

How long should single divorced moms wait and get healthy before dating?

Firstly, I want to say that just asking those kind of questions is a good sign.

As far as the answer, I’m not sure I really have anything new to say. But that is perfectly ok, because I have learned that often we seek some new, life changing wisdom, when in reality we just need to do what we already know.

And chances are you have already heard this many times before:

You need to be ok alone before you can be healthy in a relationship.

So, I’m not telling you anything new, I just want to reiterate why everyone keeps saying this thing that you may so easily hear and ignore.

I believe most people have a God given desire to be in relationships. Your yearning to find someone to do life with is perfectly healthy. There are lots of benefits to being with someone and you probably think about how your kids would benefit. However, a desire can be good and healthy, but given the wrong priority it just doesn’t work. Most houses need roofs, but that doesn’t mean you build that first.

So, let’s explore why being ok alone is a necessary foundation.

If you are not ok being alone, then essentially you fear being alone. You will fear whether you can make ends meet. You will fear the pain of loneliness and the empty times where you have to face all the things you do not want to think about. You will fear the uncertainty. You will fear finding out who you really are. And so on and so forth.

Given more time, I could explain in greater detail, but just trust me on these two principles about fear:

Fear is the opposite of love.

When you act in fear, you often cause what you fear to happen.

If you are not ok being alone, then when you are with someone, fear they will leave you will prevent you from expressing that you matter. It will keep you from setting boundaries, being assertive and requiring that the relationship be healthy. Most people will treat you how you allow them to treat you.

Furthermore, even if the relationship is good and healthy, if you do not know that being alone is an option, then will you ever really know if you are in the relationship because you want to be?

Oddly enough, it was a teenage boy who said something to me once that I feel exemplifies how everyone should treat the dating process:

“I will do everything that I am ok with to keep the relationship.”

While this may seem simple and straightforward enough, it is fear that breaks the rule and causes you to do things you are not ok with. And that is how relationships are allowed to become unhealthy.

So, to answer the original question, everyone is different. I don’t believe in any set time. And even the concept of waiting until you are ok being alone is pretty gray. As you pursue that place of personal well being you will fall down, make mistakes and uncover whole new realizations about your issues and vulnerabilities. And, even when you still have work to do, exploring the dating world is ok because the bumps and bruises that come with it will just give you more experiences and insights on where you are in the process.

But first, you have to be alone until you are not afraid of it anymore. And only you can be the judge of that.

This week I’m going to take a back seat and point you to someone else that I think is worth hearing. Her name is Megan Phelps-Roper, and not only does she have a fascinating story of being brought up in the Westboro Baptist Church, but she has some invaluable insights in how we should talk to one another if we really care about helping each other.

In case you don’t know, the Westboro Baptist Church is a small family church of about 40 people or so that is not officially affiliated with the Baptist Convention. They have become famous for hate speech and protesting funerals. I’m most amazed that the only time I have ever seen a comment section on the internet where everyone agreed was when people were talking about how awful the Westboro Baptist Church is.

So, hearing about the experience of being raised in that environment is intriguing. But, I am linking to this video, not out of curiosity, but because this woman has some invaluable insights on how people managed to overcome a seemingly impenetrable wall of denial and opposition to get through to her. These are tools we should all learn.

While her speaking style may be a little stilted, I highly encourage you to listen to everything she has to say. One of the lessons that has most stuck with me is:

“I thought my rightness justified my rudeness”

Just imagine how much the internet, our discussions and our relationships would improve if everyone believed that our rightness does not justify our rudeness.

Here’s the link to the full video.

I love working with people who are introverted, people pleasers or very conscientious, because a lot of their work is the same work I had to do for myself. Also, it is much easier to teach a selfless person how to love better, than it is to get a selfish person to care about others.

One of the big lessons I had to learn as I became an adult and that I see many people struggle with, is to realize that:

Loving people does not always mean making them happy.

I think the impulsive need to try to make people happy comes from childhood. As a child, you have very simple, black and white thinking. If you upset someone, you are told you did something wrong and you need to go fix it. If you make someone happy, you are told you are a good little boy or girl. Perhaps this is even more ingrained in homes where an upset adult may become abusive, so the best way to protect yourself is do whatever you can to make them happy.

Either way, it results in a powerful emotional impulse to make everyone happy so that you feel safe, loved and good about yourself. Those are some of our most crucial needs in life.

But as you get older, more and more situations arise that require increasingly complicated value judgments.

If your friend is stumbling around drunk and asks you for their car keys, do you give them the keys to make them happy and protect your friendship, or do you risk upsetting them and possibly losing the friendship to keep them safe?

I use that example because most everyone sees the clear loving choice is to keep the keys even if they get mad. But what about when the stakes are a bit more grey?

Do you tell your boyfriend that you are not comfortable with his actions and risk having him reject you?

If you feel really guilty for something that has happened to your child, do you let them get away with bad behavior?

If your girlfriend had a horrible childhood and is deeply depressed, do you stay in a relationship you do not want in order to love and protect them?

Some of those questions are more difficult than others, but it is really hard to figure out the ethical choice, or even the most healthy thing for the other person, if you measure the rightness of your actions based solely on whether people like them or not. It takes more a mature morality to discern that love is focused on the the well-being of another person, which is not always the same as their happiness.

Someone once told me that the opposite of love is not hate, but rather the opposite of love is fear. I’ll probably go more into detail on this another day, but this knowledge helps greatly in decision making. When you are struggling to figure out the right thing to do for someone you care about, ask yourself:

Am I doing this out of love, or out of fear?

When I realized that most of my dilemmas were an internal struggle where I worried about upsetting people or how they might think of me or that they might leave me, I realized that most of those concerns were based on fear, and fear is the opposite of love. When I removed fear from the equation, usually the right, loving choice became fairly obvious.

So, if you want to be the strong, confident, loving person you want to be, you need to remember, “Loving people does not always mean making them happy,” and ask yourself, “Am I doing this out of love, or out of fear?

Dating is rough for a lot of people. I am no exception. There is so much stress, drama and awkwardness. And a lot of that stress we bring on ourselves due to our own expectations, values and assumptions. One of those assumptions that complicates dating is based on an otherwise very useful rational thought:

“If something is not working, then you need to change what you are doing.”

Trial and error for short. If we want something to work, then we keep trying until we make it work. This results in persistence, problem solving, adaptability and a whole host of useful character traits. It is the way we should approach most problems in our lives. However, I find that this attitude is often a cause of problems when it comes to dating and relationships.

Now, please bear in mind that like most pieces of wisdom, this one is not a 100% rule, but just a part of the puzzle to keep in mind. Of course relationships take work, persistence and adaptability. However, my point here is that people get so focused on making relationships work they sometimes forget to ask if they should be making it work. A sign of healthy relationships is that they make you a better person. But if you have to change or hide fundamental aspects of who you are, then maybe you are not in the right relationship.

Let me just go ahead and share my experience. I was a nerdy teen in the 90’s before sci-fi and video games were as mainstream as they are now. Back then, “nerd” and “geek” used to be far more of an insult than a description of your taste in media. I was also distinctly under the impression that most girls did not like those things at all. It doesn’t matter if that belief was right or wrong, it still limited me. And so I thought, if I want to find a girlfriend, then I need to hide those things about me to improve my chances of finding a girl. Sure, writing about those assumptions and conclusions now sounds ridiculous, but it seemed so rational at the time. I wanted to broaden my appeal to have better odds at success, so I hid what I thought was undesirable. I think that is a common attitude.

And then one day, I went on a trip to California and spent a few days with my female, adult cousin and her family. While I was there, they showed me their board game closet. I perused their sci-fi movies and heard stories about their weekly Dungeons and Dragons games with friends. This was the first time I realized that there were girls out there who not only put up with those hobbies, but loved them just as much as guys did. And that completely changed the way I thought about dating.

Before, I had thought that finding a girlfriend was like most problems in the world. Make changes to increase your chance of success. But now I realized that dating was like a lock and a key. If the key does not fit in the lock, it does not mean there is something wrong with the key and you need to change the key. That key just does not fit with that lock. I did not need to change myself to fit with what I assumed most girls wanted, I needed to unabashedly put myself out there, making clear what I liked and what I valued. Even if it turns off 99% of the people, it will attract the 1% that I fit with best. This was not an odds game, this was a matching game.

In fact, there more clear you are about who you are, the faster and easier the process will be. We mistake rejection in relationships to mean that something is wrong with us, when in reality it is just the process of elimination to find the right fit. Again, to clarify, if you are cruel, paranoid, have trust issues or other baggage, we all need to continually work on self-improvement. But if you are worried that your desire for a serious relationship, your religion, your politics, your values or your interests will turn people off, then realize, it only turns off the people who are not right for you.

At the end of the day, what almost everyone truly is looking for is a relationship with someone who knows the real you, intimately, good and bad, and loves you anyway. You won’t find that by changing who you are.