Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Entitlement: The Killer of Thankful Hearts

I don't mean for this post to be a holiday squasher but perhaps this is the BEST time to discuss something that is becoming a deadly virus in much of our culture. During a time of year when we at least try to focus on being thankful for what we have we would be wise to also consider what can steal that attitude of gratitude the rest of the year.

It's entitlement. And no I'm not talking primarily about programs commonly labeled as entitlements like social security and Medicare though perhaps they too are an indirect result of this virus.

But I want to challenge us all to think about an attitude and expectation that we personally should have certain privileges, rights, possessions and opportunities provided for us no matter what. In a recent blog I discussed how many parents expect that their child should receive the best coach, teacher, role in the play or whatever.

Go back and read that blog if you missed it. It's one subcategory of entitlement.

But this attitude goes beyond our children. We, too, believe that we should have priority in even the simple things like: the open parking spot, the place in line, tickets for the game the invite to the prestigious party or the full attention of the clerk in the store. See what the reaction is of most drivers when you accidently took their space in a driving lane or that one place left for a car to park at the mall!

Perhaps more significant might be our demand for: the best doctor in the waiting room, the head of the company to call us, the pastor to pay more attention to us or the local utility company to handle our complaint and problem first.  One way to tell is to measure your anger quotient when you don't get something you felt entitled to. If it's highere than say "5" on the anger meter you probably struggle with entitlement.

But remember that this virus can be deadly. It can first kill our thankfulness. And when we're not thankful we aren't usually happy. We will always demand more from those around us, our kids and even our family.

Second, we will become annoying, arrogant people who people will ultimately pull away from and avoid unless they are just like us. No one wants to be around a person who constantly thinks they deserve more or better and is always trying to get their demands met no matter the cost.

Third, we will never overcome our personal challenges. Why? Because we will always require one more thing to satisfy us, one more person to give us what we we believe we're entitled to. And even if we do get something on our list, there will be one more. We won't understand that entitlement is really a black hole that never gets filled up.

So, whatever you do, squash the entitlement virus from  your mind, family and home. Start by becoming thankful all the time, every day. As you feel your anger rising, tell God you're thankful for something He blessed you with that day anyway. Teach and model thanksgiving for your family.

Second, you let go of your demand that you get everything you think you must have to succeed or be OK. God is the only one capable of giving you that. So let Him be your guide.

Desire those things but don't demand them. If you do, you'll lose any chance of having a thankful heart and experiencing an ultimately fulfilled life.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Make Thanksgiving A Lifestyle At Your House

I talk with people every week who are hurting because of their illness, relationship struggles, grief, finances or a host of other things. And I know those hurts are very real and are certainly understandable.

I do my best to help encourage them and give them practical suggestions on how to walk through their struggle, make necessary changes and heal from their pain. We often go beneath the surface to find unhealthy behaviors and thinking that may be adding to their challenges.

However, one of the common inhibitors of growth I see in them all and in myself from time to time is a lack of gratitude. They don't find anything to be thankful for. They've put on blinders so to speak and can't see how they might still be blessed in some ways in spite of their difficult times.

As a result they tend to walk down the path to more discouragement, bitterness and emotional paralysis. If they could only begin to think bigger than their own circumstances and in the middle of their moving forward stay thankful.

One way to assure that people remain thankful at your house is to make gratitude more of an attitude. How?

First, model it. When you pray, especially with others, include praise and thanks, not just requests. Talk about things you're thankful for at the dinner table, when you're having fun and even working.

Second, practice it. Have some sharing times with the kids where you all talk about something you're thankful for that day or week. Talk about the little things, perhaps things that everybody else wouldn't necessarily think of.

Third, teach it. Scripture is filled with passages that speak about the power and place of thanksgiving. I Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

I am confident that many of the people who come to see me in pain would find their journey made easier and heal more quickly when they focus more on being thankful. In fact, some of the greatest healing comes when hurting people start giving to others even through their pain. And they won't start investing in others if they remain bitter and angry rather than thankful.

So perhaps this Thanksgiving holiday could be the beginning of a new era of thanks in your home all year round. And perhaps you're the person to get it started. Happy Thanksgiving.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stay Determined Parents! It's Hard But Worth It.

Recently as I was leaving a Target store, I saw a mother and her crying preschooler walk out just ahead of me. The little blond-haired boy was clearly upset, yes mad, saying over and over, "I want the gingerbread man, mom, I want the gingerbread man!" He must have said it twenty times in my hearing and kept going until the two of them reached their van in the parking lot.

Even as I walked by their car with the windows rolled up I could still hear him pleading with mom for that cookie.

But to the mom's credit she wasn't yelling or chastising. She had him firmly by the hand as they calmly kept walking out of the store. Her eyes were focused ahead, she said nothing and didn't flinch. The little boy at one point even looked at me perhaps hoping I would go back and get him the gingerbread man. His eyes seemed to say, "Help me, please!"

None of it worked. And in my mind that mom was a model parent at least for that moment.

She had perhaps faced this before. Either way she knew ahead of time what she would do and she was determined that her cute little boy was not going to win that battle. This was probably one of a number of watershed moments she had had and will probably have again that will convince her son that mom means what she says.

Would it have been tempting to give in? You bet. Would she have made a big mistake in doing so? No doubt.  There's nothing wrong of course with a gingerbread man cookie now and then. But when it's demanded and a tantrum ensues no child should ever be given what they want.

Through her determination she was teaching him that his tactics to change her response would not work. I would hope that sometime later she explained to him that there are other ways to both ask for things and to react when you don't get something you want. I would hope that she made it clear that she still loved him no matter what.

But her victorious moment of parenting today during a tough situation should get an A+ and will likely bring her great success down the road plus help her little guy to grow into a respectable, obedient and un-entitled young man someday. How are you doing when it comes to giving in versus your child getting their own way much of the time?

Remember winning a small battle now will likely assist you in winning the bigger war later.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's All Tainted: Why We'll Never Be Perfect

The other day someone asked me as their pastor and counselor how they would know if they were going to do something for all the right reasons. I think she was shocked by my response when I said, "Well, I have bad news for you. You will never do anything in this life for all the right reasons. Neither will I. We're all tainted."

Now the rest of our discussion did include the fact that we can work on our motives and need God to help us keep the right perspective.

But I think most of us forget that even though we may be Christ followers and forgiven in God's eyes, we will always be human and our selfishness will always still creep in. It doesn't matter how long we've been a Christian or our chronological age. We won't ever have perfect motives, thoughts or attitudes.

We thankfully can get better.  We certainly don't need to stay the way we are. That's why we need the fellowship of other believers, the truth of the Scriptures and some spiritual discipline in our life. But we must always be aware that we can slip up, even in a big way.

And when we accept that truth we'll actually be better off.  Why?

First, we will pretend less because we no longer live according to an impossible goal that someday we will have things all together. Instead we can be honest about our failings and ask others to keep us accountable.

Second, we will live in less guilt because we know we can't be perfect now. We can strive for it but we'll never get there until Heaven.  And that's OK.

Third, we should be more on the alert knowing that we're always vulnerable and could really do the worst of things given the right circumstances.  Yes, Christ does make us new, but those changes take time and we must grow in our faith. There is always a chance we will slip up again.

So, if you've been subtly trying for some sort of perfect life, welcome to the real world. And remember you're among friends.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.