Counsel To A Student

I recently responded to a student who was trying to muddle through an awkward relationship without becoming bitter. She asked for some counsel, and here is an anonymized version of what I told her. The pain she is experiencing is common enough, and so I post it here in the hopes that it will prove helpful to someone else as well.

You have already said that you are praying and so I will move on to other considerations. There are several practical things you can do.

The first is to realize that you cannot avoid being hurt. You have no more choice in that than you have when falling off a cliff. Physically, if you get in a fight then your jaw will probably be sore regardless of who wins. Emotionally, it is unlikely that you’ll come out of a relational meltdown without at least the equivalent of a sore jaw. Just as in boxing, however, you can choose whether you’ll get hit in the face or the stomach. Where you are struck is based upon your guard, so block the blows that matter and absorb the ones you must.

Practically, this is a matter of where you pin your hopes. If you pin your hopes upon romantic recommitment, then that is where you are most vulnerable to being hurt. If you pin your hopes to renormalization of friendship, then that is where you are most vulnerable to being hurt. The pain of dashed romance is generally considered to be far more intense than the pain of an awkward friendship, but you must choose your own course in this.

As an aside, I’m not so sure that “guarding your heart” in the Bible is about preventing painful emotions (which seems to be the way that it is most often preached–if you can just guard your heart sufficiently then you can avoid being hurt). Jesus and Paul both experienced much pain caused by other people. Jesus was betrayed by Judas and wept when Mary and Martha blamed him for the death of Lazarus, Paul was abandoned by virtually all of his friends when in prison and wept when he left the Ephesian elders to head towards his fate in Jerusalem. Guarding their heart didn’t prevent them from experiencing pain. I think we can fairly say that it reduced the amount of the pain that they felt, and it certainly helped them to surmount pain. But it did not prevent pain. That’s a very Buddhist notion which just doesn’t fit into the Christian faith. Buddhists detach, Christians love. And love always seems to involve a certain measure of pain.

The second is to listen to your mind more than your heart. Pretend this was happening to one of your friends and then pretend to give them some advice. I’m sure you would have wise counsel for them–so be sure to take your own medicine. Your emotions are going to be very poor guides up this particular mountain. At the same time you cannot afford to ignore them completely–your emotions are the source of your pain. Ignoring them completely is as foolish as a doctor ignoring your symptoms when diagnosing you.

The third is to believe that your friend is not intentionally trying to hurt you. This is a crucial defense against bitterness. He is making a lot of choices that are causing you pain, but he is not making them because they cause you pain. He wants you to be happy and is just as confused as you are about how to achieve that goal.

And so if that’s helpful to you, take it and be blessed.ghost dog the way of the samurai divx

This Goes Cluck!

Tonight we fed Dana fish sticks for the first time. The following is as close to a verbatim transcription as I can muster:

Me: “Dana, do you like those?”
Dana: “Yes.”
Me: “Those are fish sticks.”
Dana: “Chicken nuggets.”
Me: “No, they’re fish sticks.”
Dana: “Chicken.”
Me: “Fish sticks.”
Dana: “Chicken nuggets.”
Me: “Dana, those are fish sticks.”
Dana, greatly vexed, shook her fish stick at me and said, “This goes cluck!”

That just charmed my socks off.

Solomon and the Black Eyed Peas

People often mock the Song of Songs for having bizarre romantic imagery. Song of Solomon 7:4 is a notorious example: “your nose is like the tower of Lebanon” (to which I always want to add “which means you can think of that zit as more of a banner, if you prefer”).

Stuff like that keeps many from taking the Song of Solomon seriously as a love song. We obsess over the pictures that the song employs and fail to get the point.

And we act as though we’ve never seen such outlandish imagery before. Then without even realizing it we turn the radio on and hear the Commodores belting out “she’s a brick house

she s the man dvdrip


In the cultural smackdown between us and the ancient near east, I have to give this round to the ancients. Which would you rather be called? A tower is slender, graceful, and curved. A brick house is short, squat, and angular. Quite frankly, we have no stones to throw.

And it’s that way throughout the Song.

So the next time you hear the Black Eyed Peas inquiring about the junk in your trunk, cut the Song of Solomon some slack and interpret it the way you would interpret any other love song–poetically.