Archive for the ‘Growth’ Category

Forcing Yourself Into a Category

February 11, 2020

Yesterday I wrote about how we construct theories and categories and then shove people into them. It’s easier to deal with people if we can make them a “type” and then dismiss them if they don’t fit into “our” category.

However, I started a new book on the Enneagram during yesterday’s flight to Germany. (I’m sitting in my hotel room overlooking the famous “fair grounds” of the Hannover Messe as I write this. Oh, yes, and on probably 4 hours of sleep on the plane. If this is incoherent, we’ll blame that…)

The purpose of studying the enneagram is not to determine your type and stop there. Or even to arbitrarily assign someone else to a type and stop there.

What really happens to us is that we categorize ourselves. We’re stupid. Or clumsy. Or unattractive. Or didn’t have the breaks that rich kids had. Or…whatever.

If we just had but a wise guide to lead us through the enneagram, we could develop an awareness of the tactics we adopted as kids in order to survive our circumstances. Further, we could see that we are still locked into those tactics and strategies and feelings, and that these are inhibiting our growth and our relationships.

I think every spiritual writer I have studied has at some point taught the importance of self-awareness. What a spiritual gift we have when we can see ourselves from the outside in and then change from the inside out.

Grow Your Brain

April 22, 2019

Myth: You only use 10% of your brain.

Myth: Your brain stops growing after you reach adulthood.

Your brain can continue to grow until you die. And you have influence over either growing or atrophying.

I’ve read several books on brain science. Some get pretty involved and technical.

Here is a book that combines brain science written by a PhD neuroscientist who has devoted a lifetime (so far) researching the brain with practical advice for your own personal brain development. The book is approachable for anyone. Younger students, even.

Healthy Brain, Happy Life: A Personal Program to Activate Your Brain & Do Everything Better, by Wendy Suzuki, PhD.

Here’s a hint about a great deal of the story–she is both a leading neuroscience researcher as a full professor at NYU and a certified fitness instructor.

The foundation of the story is neuroscience. But the real story is one of personal development about how she discovered how exercise leading to better eating leading to meditation leading to developing a spiritual side all played a part in her growth. And led to more research in the lab on brain plasticity–how it continues to grow.

It goes to show scientifically that spiritual practices must involve the entire body. And, in so doing, your brain can retain some youthfulness and you can have a better life.

Perhaps we could think of these bullet points as sort of a progression layering upon each other for personal development:

  • Knowledge
  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Meditation
  • Spiritual development
  • (Iterate)

Get the book, digest it, pick some of her practical tips for implementing the lesson. Grow your brain and grow your life.

Getting Into Balance

January 14, 2019

Personality type testing once again becomes a fad.

Are you and “ISFJ” or a “9”?

(The former being one of the types on the Myers-Briggs Types Indicator; the other one of the 9 types on the Enneagram.)

One use of the Myers-Briggs I have seen is for leadership teams to take the evaluation in order to figure out how to work together. [I have never seen that actually work…]

I took the test as part of someone’s doctoral research on how school board members work together. It didn’t help us any, but the guy received a doctorate.

Once I walked into my pastor’s office. “Our Emmaus team just took the Myers-Briggs to help us work together. We are all ‘FJs’ “(feeling-judgementals-look it up). I replied, “I’m a ‘TP’ ” (thinking-perceptive). He said, “How can you call yourself a Christian and be a TP?”

[Mis]use of the profile, for sure.

The Enneagram is getting popular in some Christian circles right now. It’s not “what’s your sign” but rather “what’s your number”.

Another [mis]use of the evaluation.

I’ve studied both Western and Eastern philosophy. I got rather deep one time into Ayurveda. It does “mind-body” types.

The thing of it is, you don’t study it to find out your type…and then stop. You study it so that you can change some ways you eat or exercise to bring your mind and body into balance. If you are a “pitta” then maybe eat some “kapha” foods to bring yourself into balance.

If you read deeper than your M-B or number, you find a lot of ambivalence. No one is 100% a “9”. There’s a little of every number in all of us. Maybe you are called E (extroverted) but you’re maybe only 16 out of 31 on the scale. One question differently answered and you’d be labeled “I” (introverted).

If you are going to go this route, do yourself a favor and use the tool to bring your personality (and your life) into balance.

He’s Gonna Find Out

December 18, 2017

He’s making a list; checking it twice.

Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.

Whom among us ever behaved because of this threat from Santa Claus?

Even for a minute?

Or has been the parent who uses threats as the “easy” way to enforce proper behavior?

“Just wait until I get you home….”

“If you don’t stop that, I’ll ….”

Delayed punishment of children, actually even of many adults, doesn’t work as far a changing behavior.

Worse still is the threat that’s not enforced or even forgotten.

There are whole Protestant denominations founded on the premise of threats.

Back when Hartford, Connecticut was the home of most insurance companies Mad Magazine ran a caricature of a preacher who sold the first “fire insurance” in the US.

Today, we all get to find out who has been naughty when they appear on the front page of the newspaper, lead on the TV news, or at the top of your digital news feed. And, Lord, this has been the year of bringing naughty into light!

Or we can consider from another perspective–do we really want to raise human persons to be timid and docile? That doesn’t sound like the type of person Jesus developed. His initial group of followers–beyond the 11 considering the maybe 100 or more that were around all the time, too–all seemed to be strong, courageous, and faithful.

Boys to Men

August 3, 2017

Doesn’t it seem that over the past 20 years or so that the adolescent stage of young males has expanded? Where there was a time while in their 20s they married, got jobs, had children, and began contributing to society.

Then it seems that the growth from adolescent pleasures to maturity was put off until the 30s.

The problem of growth and maturity is not new. But we live in an age that seems to want to keep men irresponsible.

I remember being 18. A painful time of life to be sure. Rebellious. Pleasure-seeking. Being shy and geeky, perhaps I wasn’t as bad as others–but comparisons are foolish.

So I wondered about maturity. Here are some thoughts:

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?


Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.


Ephesians 4:14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

What is lacking in the description of children is something to anchor the life to. Life is adrift from day-to-day. We live in the whim of the moment. We think that we can live without the fruit of the Spirit.

People will say, but it is good to live in adolescence all of out lives. But they are wrong. Growth and maturity is the way of the world. Only humans can choose the state of not-maturity.
And then at the end, you look and see that you’ve done nothing.

Getting Comfortable In Our Self

February 15, 2017

He was sharing about his early experiences in the Navy. Today he is famous around town as a “joker.” Guess he always was.

“Life is too serious to take serious,” he told me.

So, he’s on his first ship. First trip. Sees the Captain. “Morning, Sir. How’s it going?” he said.

Junior officer hears him. Begins to yell at him, “Don’t you ever talk to your commanding officer that way.”

He says that later he observed that senior officers were much more laid back about that sort of thing.

I thought, yes, that’s true. Do we remember back to being in our late 20s or 30s and trying to make it? And how serious we were? And how we were sticklers for protocol and rank? In fact rank was quite important to us.

Then we matured. We were comfortable with ourselves. We stopped worrying about rank and privileges. Maybe we became human.

Spiritual life is like that.

At first we need the rules. Paul calls that like being babies who need milk. Then we get on the maturity track. We realize that the goal, if you will, is to mature. Paul says that is like going from drinking milk to eating steak.

As we mature, we are more comfortable in our spirituality. No more trying to impress people. That’s a lost cause for us anyway.

We are just us. Well, sort of like me and God. “Just us, Lord, right?”

We don’t impact anyone through our opinions or rules. We impact people through example. What we do shouts louder than what we say.

Training For The Super Bowl

February 6, 2017

I’m writing this while watching the “Super Bowl.” The championship game of American professional football.

These are skilled and highly trained athletes. They train physically. They train intellectually. They are coached to recognize situations on the move and respond appropriately. They study. The strengthen their bodies.

The apostle Paul often used analogies from athletics to encourage our spiritual life.

How trained are you?





It is hard work to train. But confidence comes from developing our bodies and minds.

And the payoff is reaching the goal. The olive branch wreath. The Lombardi trophy.

Union with God.

I Feel Safe In My Cocoon

January 30, 2017
There’s a world where I can go
And tell my secrets to
In my room
In my room
In this world I lock out
All my worries and my fears
In my room
In my room
–Beach Boys, Brian Wilson

We wrap ourselves so tightly in our cocoon. So warm, cozy, comforting.

We seldom venture out further than places we know. Where we feel comfortable with people who look and sound just like us.

And ideas? We don’t need new ideas? Those that were passed down from parents, or peers, or preachers–that’s all we need. Research from 50 years ago revealed that we only read those things that reinforce our prejudices.

Today, entire business models that make billions of dollars are built on that research. Do you watch Fox or MSNBC? Ah Ha, we can type cast you. And target you with advertising. And you keep coming back for more advertising because you need the hourly fix of information targeted to your prejudices.

Remember when rock songs were targeted to teenagers? Brian Wilson reflected the adolescent years of growing, but not yet grown. Wanting to be with my peers, yet needing to be alone, in a sanctuary, safe.

[Side note: this of course was written to the middle class kids with parents and families that offered safety; unfortunately today we know that too many kids never feel that safety. Something we need to correct.]

There is the story of the boy who found a cocoon. He showed it to a wise man. The guru said, “Just one thing. Do not help the butterfly get out of the cocoon.”

But sadly, the little boy returned to the guru later. The butterfly was dead.

“You helped it, didn’t you?” he asked the little boy. “You see, in order to grow, become strong, and mature, the butterfly must beat its wings against the cocoon. Struggling with all its might to get out. Then when it breaks through, it is a beautiful butterfly that can fly among the flowers.”

What about us? Do we struggle and try to grow? Or do we try to stay safe in our cocoons?

Change In Personality–It’s Inevitable

August 29, 2016

Don’t you understand, I’m never changing who I am. — Imagine Dragons

No, this song didn’t come from the rebellious, “us-against-them” Heavy Metal genre. It played on Sirius XM Coffee House–acoustic, folk, coffee house type of music.

But it reminds us of our rebellious teenage years. “I’m never changing.”

Do you recall your teenage years? I do–with deep regret and chagrin over my social and relational stupidity. Now, I’m only partially challenged relationally and socially.

Even that statement implies change over time.

My wife is not even close to the same person I married. She’s changed a couple of times. Then I think, “poor woman, I’m not even close to the guy she married.” It wasn’t some sort of bait-and-switch marketing. We just grew. That’s life.

I like to “joke” about some people of my acquaintance who used to be addicted to substances and now are addicted to Jesus. Sort of a fundamental addictive personality, but growth happened. Jesus is much better than drugs.

That’s the process of spiritual formation. We grow intentionally toward being (OK, here comes the M-word) spiritually mature. That’s not so bad.

A spiritually mature person grows to enjoy the fruit of the spirit. Paul, writing to the Galatians (5:22-23), tells us that a person mature in the spirit has the fruit of the spirit–But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Really, now, do we want to remain selfish, anxious, obnoxious people? Adrift in life? Slave to every whim and emotion that buffets us?

We are designed to be free, strong, and caring. People who’ve never grown up may scoff at such people, but wouldn’t you rather be around people filled with such fruit? Wouldn’t you rather be a person filled with such fruit? The Proverbs tells us about scoffers and their inevitable end.

Know That You Need To Ask For Help

May 25, 2016

The Lord helps those who help themselves.

That is not in the Bible. Sorry. Grace is not dependent upon our works. It is dependent upon our attitude–the attitude of turning to God and asking for help.

Henry Cloud’s new book, The Power of the Other, is all about the power relationships–good, bad, indifferent–hold over our lives.

He was talking about his work as a consultant and coach. He has sufficient track record and fame, that boards of directors of companies, even large companies, send their failing CEOs to him to turn them around.

A man came to him one time who had failed terribly. It was a personal failure, but the results bled over into every aspect of his life–marriage, family, business, volunteering. Being a highly successful and driven person, he came with a list. He asked for help, but then he laid out the plan that he had devised to correct the situation.

Cloud said it was sad. Every point depended upon the man’s action. There was no place for relationship with another.

Cloud said that he’s reached the point of life that he really doesn’t want to waste time with people who are sent to him to be fixed but who think that it all depends on themselves.

I understand. In my consulting and coaching career, I have met several people who only wish for outside reinforcement. They don’t understand why nothing changes.

At some point, you must come to the realization that it’s not all dependent upon your own effort.

Ask someone for help–and then listen.

Ask someone close to you how they feel about the situation–and then listen.

Humble yourself (that means be willing to not be the person in charge) and realize that others will help if you ask.

Thank people for helping.

Remember God gives us grace. It’s there for the asking. Be open to receiving it.

You ultimately are not in charge; stop acting as if you are.

The Lord helps you, and so will others, if you ask and are willing to listen and absorb.