Terms of Grief

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2018 by jcwill5

How does one ever begin to begin to come to terms with the loss of any parent?

I ask because the cry, “I don’t even know how to begin?”, is universal to grieving.

The Challenge of Impossibility

Part of the difficulty is how impossible it is to sum up the life of any human being, let alone count the cost of subtracting them from one’s life.

Another part of the challenge is each of us feels our loss differently, goes at a different pace, and has a different relationship with the person we lost than anyone else.

Grief is utterly universal, yet utterly unique, for each of us.

And we can feel such different, even opposite, things inside us at the same time.

It can feel overwhelming, and impossible.  And that’s OK.

Pre-Paid Grieving

In my mom’s case, my grieving began five years ago when a major stroke robbed her of her voice.

Our “family conversationalist” was now largely silent.

Our interactions were mostly a game of twenty questions and yes or no answers.

And I, never the master of small talk, found myself ever running out of fresh things to say.

I was reduced to trying to communicate with tender eyes and smiles my love for her.

And since I knew my mom most as the intellectual nurturer, and not as a physical or emotional nurturer, her prior loss of speech was the hardest for me to bear.

There is so much, so much, I wished we could have talked about in these last years:  my dad’s passing, challenges of Asperger’s, shared memories, insights, our faith, etc.

Reinterpreting Parents Through Adult Eyes

It wasn’t my mom’s fault that she was born with Asperger’s and not wired to notice cues or clues that distressed little children send out.

Physical touch and emotional affirmation and forming heart connections were not her speciality.

And since that was my love language was physical touch and words of affirmation, my childhood was an emotional desert of sorts.

Which is why, for me, a hard piece has been not understanding her impediment until I was fifty, and misinterpreting her for so long.

It’s a far different thing to be able but unwilling than it is to be willing but unable.

And this reframing, this reinterpretation of my mom, has opened the door to floods of compassion, understanding, and treasuring her for who she actually was not who she wasn’t able to ever be.

Positive Feelings in Grief

Then there are those positive emotions, which I don’t feel guilty at all for having.

Gratitude that her final years, months, and days were so full of peace and tranquility.

Gratitude that her passing was peaceable and her suffering was shortened.

Gratitude for 27 extra years beyond her colon cancer diagnosis in 1990, years in which all of my now adult children were born and got to know her, prize her, and grieve her absence.

Gratitude that, in her own Asperger’s way, she had a relationship with God and was a committed churchwoman and tireless volunteer that helped so many.

Gratitude that, despite my dad’s faults and unresolved issues, she stuck with him for 62 years and loved him graciously through thick and thin.

Gratitude that, when the bottom fell out of the economy, she was able to leverage her skills and education to land a decently paying series of jobs that kept us afloat.

Gratitude that, on Friday and Saturday, her passing was used to inspire a group of people she never met to love and reach an even wider group of people she never will meet in this life.

Gratitude Triumphant

Amidst the sad notes of grief, there is a choir of joy and resolution and hope singing within me.

And now, in my mom’s footsteps, I get to serve others in settling her affairs and lending a hand in a tough time.

I can say without reservation that I’m glad to be her son, glad to have had her as a mother, glad to come to truly understand her this side of heaven.

It’s why I think peace and contentment are the children of joy.

And, as a lover and follower of Christ, the hope of the bodily resurrection and our physical reunion and eternal dwelling in the very presence of God is simply stirring!

There is hope, people!  Hope!!!!

Not false hope, real “will actually happen and certain” hope that won’t disappoint and will be worth every single awful thing this life can throw at us!

Hang onto that.  Press into that.  Open your heart to that.

And watch this!


Whispers of Entitlement

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2018 by jcwill5

I was at a prayer retreat the last few days and there were many beautiful moments of devotion to God and of experiencing His presence.

And, oddly enough, there were some ugly things that came to light, too.

It was the final morning when that happened to me.

The Voice of Entitlement

After three poor night’s sleeps in a row, and trying to cope with a particularly annoying, non-boundary observing brother all week, it hit me.

There was something in me that felt entitled to a good night’s sleep and entitled to good treatment and freedom from annoying, intrusive people.

It was the voice of entitlement.

But it was a very subtle, very whispering voice.

It was like a background application, working unseen but always running.

It filters all incoming data–all circumstances and all interactions with others–through a grid of met or unmet self-expectations.

It has been shaped by both consumerism and American culture, but I was born with it.

It’s “self setting” is defaulted to the highest level possible.

Entitlement’s Constant Dissatisfaction

Is life going as well as I expect?

Are my needs being satisfactorily met?

Are people observing my boundaries and affirming my worth?

Do I deserve better than this?  Am I getting as much as I should?  Is it fair or unjust?

The scary thing is this voice, which once was so loud and impossible to miss, has gone underground and is on minimum volume these days.

It no longer shouts openly and loudly as it once did in my youthful days.

Now it just quietly feels and works under the radar as unobtrusively and seamlessly as possible.

So here I was, the morning finale of the final day of the prayer retreat, sporting a bad attitude and a complaining spirit that had sneaked up behind me.

A Reminder of Privileged Grace

Our facilitator had us turn our Bibles to 1st Peter 2, where the Lord speaks grace to us all.

Once we were once not a people, but now we are His people.

Once we had once received no mercy, but now we had received mercy.

Now we are a royal priesthood and a holy nation and a people for His own possession.

Instead of a life of entitlement and of getting what we thought we deserved, the truth is we deserved nothing good.

All these blessings, these changes of status, these elevated descriptions were gifts to the undeserving.

Pure privilege.  Undeserved privilege.

From Heavy Complaining to Light-hearted Joy

Then I realize it:  I felt I deserved a good night’s sleep every night, and felt like I deserved to be left alone by annoying people.

My whole point of view was backwards, and I had fallen away from a perspective of grace for one of entitlement.

Upon repenting, the shift in attitude was instantaneous and powerful.

It was time to thank God for any sleep at all, and for any time at all around any kind of brother in Christ He wanted me to be with.

As a profoundly undeserving person, I had been lavished with boatloads of honors and privileges and blessings by God in an outpouring of grace.

The weight of complaining was off of my soul, and the pressure came off to force life to live up to my fallen self’s bloated expectations and perpetual sense of entitlement.

What a relief!

And what a freeing, joy-releasing deliverance!

Jesus Privilege

It’s common these days to speak of “white privilege”.

But the truth is any natural privileges I might have from social status, ethnicity, or locality are totally dwarfed by all I have in Christ by grace as a totally undeserving, sinful man.

I carry a universe of “Jesus privilege” and all my interactions get to be marked by it.

I have the honor of being able to give it all away repeatedly without diminishing my own share of it.

I had simply forgotten, as a former persecutor of Christians and former sorcerer should never forget, a heightened sense of profound mercy and of undeserved privilege I had been given.

In my sin-monster’s chronic whisper campaign of entitlement, I had lost my grace perspective and, with it, the fountain of joy and wonder and celebration of a saved sinner.

I had left Christ’s celebratory party and was peevishly stamping my foot outside in the cold, demanding better treatment for my injured, bloated, fallen ego.

But in an act of further grace, this passage had exposed the nonsense that had infiltrated my heart and soul–and shown the way back inside.

Perhaps you’re like me:   thinking you deserve better without saying so when, in truth, you’re in a room full of unopened riches of undeserved grace and conferred privileges, honors, and blessings.

And all that’s standing in your way is a sense of ego-entitlement and a bloated, injured pride that won’t stop complaining.

There is a solution!

The Ugly Olympics

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2018 by jcwill5

Have you noticed it?  The celebratory coverage of North Korea by the American media at the Winter Olympics?

Perhaps I can explain what’s going on.

Several decades ago, I read a book called Idols for Destruction by Herbert Schlossberg.

Although it was rather long and dry, he mentioned something called “ressentiment” in a discussion of political idols.

First mentioned by Nietzsche and discussed later by mid-20th century French existentialists, ressentiment is a kind of buried envy and hatred that is rooted in inferiority and which blames certain groups for its plight.

Praising the Opposite to Do Harm

Then ressentiment does something interesting:  instead of attacking the object of its hatred directly, it attacks it indirectly.

It celebrates the opposite group or person that its own enemy hates and thus mercilessly makes negative comparisons and contrasts it against its enemy.

“Unlike the depraved rich, the virtuous poor….”

“Unlike this backwards tribe, this other, more advanced civilization….”

“Unlike our society, this other, more noble society…”

It champions the causes or movements that can cause its enemy the most distress and harm.

It compares its enemy endlessly to death.

It overlooks the flaws or abuses of its enemy’s enemy, and instead praises this group or person to the heavens–seeking to make its own enemy look bad without stating it.

Odd Olympic Coverage

Why do I mention all of this?

Because we are seeing ressentiment right now during the Winter Olympics by the American media and their praising of Kim Jong Un’s sister, North Korea’s cheerleaders, and the North Korean regime’s so-called charm offensive.

Which, of course hasn’t gone unnoticed by many of us:


And, by praising North Korea, the commentators wish to shame and make our current administration and its leader, Donald Trump, look bad by comparison.

Kim Jong Un is pursuing peace (but “you know who” isn’t).

What a lovely group of North Korean cheer-leaders they sent (and what an repugnant American vice-president we sent).

Celebrating Evil

Yet the odd thing about ressentiment is requires a compulsive downplaying of evils in those we champion to strike a blow against one we hate.

And, in this case, the worst in the world tyranny of a regime that starves millions of its people to feed its bloated army and buy oceans of weapons.

A worldwide state sponsor of terror and only state in the world to openly threaten to actually use nuclear weapons pre-emptively.

A regime with a network of world’s worst death camps and arbitrary mass arrests of anyone out of step with the fickle whims of its “dear leader”.

A dictatorship of the worst sort–a mass persecutor of religious people, a personality cult totalitarian society that stultifies all creativity and free thought.

This is what our media now champions?!

Is their own personal hatred so great, their need to disguise it because of their professional position so deep, they would descend to this level of ressentiment?

Has our outrage grown so furious and so great, we would seek any means whatsoever to strike a blow against it, however vile?

Apparently yes.

Hatred Getting the Better of Us

Those of you reading this well know that I am no fan of Donald Trump or his fanatics.

And you also know that I’m also no fan of the anti-Trump progressive fanatics, either.

So I’ll just say it:  when our personal hatred for someone is so great that we find ourselves championing and making common cause with the worst perpetrators of actual, mass evils, it’s time to take some very hard looks in the mirror.

It’s time to step back and ask whether we want our personal hatred against whoever we blame for all our problems to consume us this deeply.

It’s time to ask the disturbing question:  in seeking to fight the enemy, have I myself become just like my enemy?

And, more tellingly, has my enemy exposed something in me and in my favored group–a fault we harshly denounce in him that lives inside of us–unacknowledged and unchecked?

Nursing homes are full of resentful, bitter, anger-consumed old people.

No president is worth having you become one of them.

Fantasy and Reality

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2018 by jcwill5

Fantasy is a fictional, imaginative approach to literature and arts.

Songs and books and shows take us places that aren’t real, tell stories there, and create worlds where anything can happen.

They transcend the everyday, the normal, the boundaries of this existence, and offer us ways to explore our own lives and our own world by means of other lives in other worlds that never really existed in the first place.

Fantasy is Everywhere

All advertising trades to some degree in fantasies.

So does pornography.

Most pop songs and their accompanying videos are really all about fantasy, however gritty or real their subject matter is.

Gaming in its various forms, both in its individual and mass multi-player forms, builds upon fantasy and powerful exploits in a fantasy world.

Most television and theater shows are either all fantasy or have big elements of fantasy in them.

And a great deal of literature is, of course, fiction (as opposed to non-fiction).

Fiction Rules and Shapes All

My point is that our media-dominated and saturated world, amplified and driven by ubiquitous technology, fiction is how most people are raised to think, feel, choose, and act.

Fantasies transport us into the lives of the super-rich, whose money can buy them exotic and super-normal means to overcome all challenges.

These infinitely wealthy characters can do whatever they want to anyone they want and get away with it.

Fantasies takes us to urban clubs, where only the most beautiful and youthful exist to enjoy unlimited, consequence-free sexual cavorting–all without any negatives.

These magical people drink like a fish there, and few if any ever end up drunk–the good times only get better.

In fantasy, we vicariously live through these main characters that have unlimited wealth, secret powers, and beautiful partners.

Illusions and Unreality

There’s just one problem.

All these fantasy worlds doesn’t exist.

These kind of fantasy characters don’t exist.

Their kind of choices would, in real life, lead to painful consequences instead of unlimited joy and freedom.

And so their kind of lifestyle and their brand of living cannot, therefore, actually exist and cannot work in reality.

Actual Abuse and Destruction

Yet we have actual people in real life trying to run around and construct their own made fantasy world of unbridled liberties without limits, boundaries, and consequences.

They are the powerful people who exploit assistants and subordinates for sexual gratification.

They are the famous people who act like the rules don’t apply to them, and who thrive on constant publicity.

They are the predators who use and abuse people in relationship with them, who are violent and who leave behind a wake of broken lives, in the pursuit of their narcissistic fantasies.

The damage they actually do in reality through their abuse of power, through their greed, through their sexual using and abusing, is incalculable.

Yet, like an incompetent doctor treating only the symptoms, few voices in our society today are challenging the underlying disease:  the fantasy view of life fueling the mentality of no boundaries, no limits, no consequences abusiveness.

Truth be told, they make far too much money off of these fantasies to ever connect the dots.

The price would be too high to get to the root of the matter and uproot it–their entire fantasy-feeding business model would utterly collapse.

Back to Reality

Few, if any, voices are calling us back to a life of utter reality.

Few, if any, rise above the din to have us face what we see in the mirror, in our relationships with actual people, in the situations and events are we actually going through and in the painful choices we are needing to make.

Few, if any, are advocating a centered, grounded, and eternally-focused view that puts our short, fallen, sinful, out-of-control, vulnerable life in perspective.

Few are teaching the ways of self-restraint, self-discipline, and self-crucifixion of our fallen nature, and the new ways of the Spirit build upon new realities.

Few are calling us to repentance, to finding our way back to the Infinite Person who created all reality and who stands with open arms, calling us home, if we would but listen.

The Way Home

It’s in the ugly aftermath, in the self-collapse of our fantasies and the shattering of our dreams, that God stands ready to grant us redeeming grace.

As painful as reality is, at least it is reality.

And God, unlike all the characters and magical stories we see in fantasy, can actually change us deep within and transform the realities of our lives as well.

The one who seeks God is seeking ultimate reality.

God only deals with us in reality and calls us to lay down our fantasies, illusions, and pretend world.

And that means giving up “the magic” of our self-deceived, fantasy thinking–even our religious versions of it.

The one who would know God will come through the gate of fearless honesty about the ugly realities of our irreparably broken lives, and our inability to self-fix ourselves.

Instead of seeing ourselves as noble rebels and shaking our fists at Him to live as we please, we bend our knees and humble ourselves in His sight.

Instead of indulging in fantasies of dominance and control, here we lay down all illusions of control and place ourselves completely at His mercy.

And He loves us there.  And it’s real.

There is a solution!

Life in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2018 by jcwill5

It’s been awhile.

Awhile because I’ve been on a journey with my 87 year old mother and the rest of our family.

A journey into the valley of the shadow of death.

It’s not been an easy journey, not by a long stretch.

It’s been a journey of ups and downs, a journey of unwelcome surprises and happy reprieves, at least so far.

What’s most interesting, what my mind understood and my heart tends to forget, is how much life there to be had in the valley of the shadow of death.

All Together

As we’ve gathered around my mom, and simply been with her while she’s napping or awake enough to listen and respond to us, we’ve all been brought together.

I’ve enjoyed being with my adult children who flew down and joined me at times.

It’s been a window into their growing maturity and a bonding time between us.

I’ve enjoyed my sister and her husband who hosted us and who have borne the weight of being my mom’s main support system.

It’s been a window into both the burden they’ve carried and the tremendous grace they’ve received along the way.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know my nephew and his almost fiance, and entering into their lives.

Through I’ve begun to know them far better than otherwise.

Life Experienced

While our focus has been on our mom–helping her during her hospital stays and returns home, through her medical crises and their resolutions, there’s been grace for us, too.

We’ve recounted stories during our vigils, and told both my parents’ family history to the next generation of adults.

We’ve read Bible promises and sung songs of faith.

And, yes, there have been times of weeping and a great undercurrent of sadness.

But weirdly, that undercurrent has been the platform for joy and memory and bonding between us.

Good Treasured

A lot of life, good life, has happened in this valley of the shadow of death.

We’ve been reminded to treasure every loved one, prize every day, and esteem every moment we’re given–because life is short and death is real.

The book of Proverbs says plainly there is more wisdom found in a funeral than at a wedding.

And, though sounding morbid to say so, the man of God speaking long ago was absolutely right on the money.

And the Bible also reminds us this life is but a prelude for something better to come, something beyond the crass materialism of this life and its arguments and ego stuff.

Eternity Rediscovered

God has put eternity in our hearts.

And we humans are both haunted by this, and yet pretend this life is everything and where all value lies.

In the valley of the shadow of death, eternity and eternal values and God’s perspective on our doings and thoughts and feelings breaks through.

We realize once more what is most truly important, and our eyes are re-opened and our souls move out of denial–if we’re willing to be taken there.

I came home richer in my spirit than when I left the week before.

More softened, more centered, more aware of the infinite unseen world and my looming eternity with God.

My parents’ generation has almost all passed away.

Now it’s me and my generation who’s next.


Immigration and Backlash

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture on January 22, 2018 by jcwill5

This is not the first time we’ve had a backlash against immigration and too many foreigners.

In fact, it’s the third time in our history this very thing has happened.

Three Great Immigrations

America has had three periods of mass immigration (1820-50), (1870-1920), (1980-2017).

During these periods, a large influx of people increased the percentage of foreign-born Americans to peaks of around 10%.

Many of them were fleeing famines (the Irish), actual or thwarted revolutions (Germans, Italians, Russians), religious persecution (Russian Jews), or impoverished conditions (Scandinavians, Mexicans, Central Americans, Africans).

America for them was the land of economic opportunity, cheap land, political freedom, and a fresh start.

Yet, they also met our economic needs for easily-exploited cheap labor–to build the railroads and new industries, to work the sweatshops, to settle and farm the prairie, and to do the dirty manual laboring that native-born Americans no longer wanted to do.

Three Nasty Reactions

However, these waves of newcomers also put increased social stress on the society because they needed economic care, cultural assimilation, and a long period of social adjustment to their new home.

And the existing Americans (including the previous wave of immigrants), when facing the prolonged stress and change required by the influx, have three times during our history reacted negatively when a certain social stress point is reached.

With predictable regularity, the immigration in the 1840’s yielded the Nativist or Know-Nothing party of the 1850’s.

That of the late 19th and early 20th century birthed the isolationist, closed door response after World War 1.

Today’s version is the build the wall mantra and calls to end chain migration and greatly curtail both regional and international immigration into the USA for the foreseeable future.

The pendulum swings back from policies of unlimited immigration to policies the greatly curtail or altogether close access to the USA.

It’s almost like swallowing a too big bite, and then coughing or choking due to being unable to swallow the whole bite all at once.

Demonizing Doesn’t Help

I write this for two reasons.

First, to remove the shaming and demonizing of people who disagree with us or our party on these issues.

It is wrong to demonize immigrants and newcomers.

And it is wrong to demonize people who feel overwhelmed by both the pace of assimilation and the personal losses that imported, cheap labor has caused them and their group.

Each ideology–unlimited immigration and absolute multiculturalism, and no immigration and total preservation of the existing order–are utopian.

Each has been taken to extremes in our history and each, strangely, produces and reinforces the other.

Each ideology blames the other for blocking its cherished goal.

Each ignores the facts that don’t support their view, and disregards or dismisses the human cost they require of the other side.

Sometimes We Need a Pause

So I’m going to say it:

I think it’s perfectly OK to hit a temporary pause button on immigration after a period of massive immigration that has over-stressed our capacity to deal with it personally and socially.

Eventually, we will succeed in swallowing the too big bite and recover our appetite again for more newcomers.

We did it twice before and we’ll do it this third time.

It isn’t racism.

It’s common sense.

Why?  Because human beings are limited creatures that can only handle a certain amount of change–just ask any mother of a toddler having a meltdown in a stressful, overwhelming new place.

Closing the Door to Evil

And when, because of ideological reasons, we fail to understand or recognize that a critical mass in society is overwhelmed and needing a break from too much, too fast change by too many newcomers, we risk a counter-reaction.

And if we shame and totally disregard the overwhelmed and the stressed, and therefore fail to listen or respond to their concerns, our history tells us something.

It tells us we run the real risk that truly evil and racist ideologies will full the vacuum.

It tells us when people in power don’t listen, then the door is opened to the worst groups to tout themselves as the only people who will listen, who do understand, who will fight to change the no boundaries policies.

In other words, these racist ideologies and demagogues do not cause the reaction, they are in fact an ugly by-product of it when we disregard it.

And, because of this racist-hijacking and exploitation of mass immigration-related stress, the same elites cling ever more fiercely to no limits immigration and wrap their own rigidity in anti-racist nobility.

Scrape the hijackers away, and I think the call here is to respond compassionately and practically to those whose economic status, social place, and way of life has been most hurt by the latest wave of unlimited immigration.

Accepting Our Human Limits

Here are the twin truths:   Americans generously and generally welcome the newcomer, and, at times, Americans have difficulty assimilating and get stressed out when too many newcomers arrive in a short period of time.

Then that overcrowded time passes and we open the doors again.

We’re generous-hearted, and we have limits to what we can handle.

We can never be infinite capacity people that some ideologies require us to be.

Does that make us evil?

Or does it make us simply human?

Control Dressed Up as Religion

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2018 by jcwill5

Like you, I have been horrified by the report of the Turpin family in California.

Religious Hell House

David and Louise Turpin held their 13 kids captive for many years in both Texas and California.

They were isolationists who seldom if ever spoke with neighbors, and rarely if ever left their home.

The children were forced to march in circles at all hours of the day, and spoke robotically and in unison whenever they did venture out in public.

The couple were said to be “highly religious” and had formed their private school made up only of their own children.

The police raided the house after a 17 year old escaped to a neighbor, and found children shackled in beds, malnourished, and surrounded by human excrement.

You can read about it here and here.

Family Cults

Some cults are formed out of charismatic leaders holding sway over unthinking followers who long to be controlled, to be told what to think and do, to find security in being dominated, etc.

Others, however, are formed around a family.

Here we have parents who need perfect control, to make subordinated children parrot and do their will, and who often use religion to reinforce and build a family system to express their absolute dominance.

And when their kids act like kids, or deviate in any way, these parents use greater and greater extremes of control to achieve their dominance until torture, confinement, starvation, beatings, and even death happens.

With nobody on the outside to see what is going on, the cycle of failure to be perfect and of greater extremes to achieve absolute control runs unchecked until the home becomes a house of horrors.

Then the break happens, someone escapes and the house is raided and their tightly-controlled, highly imaged public facade is exposed for the private horror it actually is.

The same cycle of required but never-achieved perfection, and greater and greater extremes of abuse, go on in spousal-battering marriages and in toxic employer situations.

Warning Signs of a Control Based System

It is well worth educating ourselves about control-based systems, and moving out of naivity and ignorance.

There are definite markers and warning signs:

  • a belief system based on perfectionism and performance
  • a need for dominance and absolute control
  • asserted control over every aspect of life of the subordinants,
  • a perfect and guarded public image,
  • a need to be seen as super-good, super-religious, always right, etc.,
  • social isolation and denial of all access to anyone outside the system
  • cycles of pampering and punishing, of increasing physical, spiritual, emotional, social, and verbal abuse
  • no guards, checks and balances, or restraints against increasingly extreme measures of control
  • discovery and “outing” in the final, most extreme phase months and sometimes years later

From the perspective of genuine, biblical Christianity that reflects the character of God, I want to point out that none of the above has anything to do with God.

In fact, these parents are themselves trying to be gods of their family who demand god-like control, and actually worship absolute control instead of the actual Person of God.

They dress up their system as religion, even as biblical faith, and use “god” as a tool to obtain their goal, which is perfect control.

They commit actions and perpetrate evils that are in total opposition to the lovely character that God is seeking to produce by grace through love in totally imperfect, totally needy people (Gal. 5:22-24)

Rather, their actions express the worst of our fallen human nature (Gal. 5:19-21).

Diagnostic Questions:

Is this family, group, or church seeking to be honest? Or seeking to be always right?

Is there a spirit of grace, of growing together, of admitted need and receiving mercy and care, in this group, family, or church?

When making mistakes, blowing it, and exposed as sinning, do they hide it and up their efforts to look good and become hyper-dutiful in response?

Or do they admit sin and failure openly, seek help, and, out of being helped, give mercy to the failing and the fallen as well as structure and help so the evils are remedied?

Is there bonding and boundaries, love and healthy limits, care and correction in balance?

Or is it all boundaries, limits, and disproportionately punitive responses to even the smallest failings?  (i.e. perfectionism)

Is there a robotic quality in their voices?  A tightly controlled “emotionally damaged” countenance on their faces?  A lifelessness and crushed and dull quality about their spirit?