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This is parenting.

“We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”
(Yoda, The Last Jedi)


This week I go to my son’s college orientation, in preparation for launching him from the nest in a month or so. It is a bittersweet time, but a necessary one. This quote from Yoda is especially helpful—our son is destined to grow beyond us, as our daughter already is. This doesn’t mean they no longer need us, or our guidance (or wallet); it just means we get to watch others lead them as well, as they ultimately learn to lead themselves.


This is leadership.


This is parenting.


Peace begins with pause,


The (Two) Best Phrases You Can Say

“Please forgive me.” / “I forgive you.”


Today we reveal the very best phrase we humans can say to one another, if we wish to create the peace and happiness we all crave, both within ourselves and among others.


And…it’s a tie. These two phrases are interrelated, of course, but they are also two distinct expressions.


First, “please forgive me.”


I don’t want you to excuse my behavior, tell me it’s okay, and otherwise soothe the awkwardness between us because of my behavior. I want you to please consider my actions, hold me accountable for what I’ve done to you, and bravely choose to forgive me.


I know this is a lot to ask. I know my behavior was careless, or reckless, or downright cruel. I can tell you a number of reasons I did this, and those reasons might help explain why I chose to do what I did. But none of those reasons, or context, can excuse my behavior (see yesterday’s Pause).


I am truly sorrowful for what I’ve done, and I know I’m asking a lot. You may not want to talk about this, or even see me ever again. I understand. I would like you to simply know how sorry I am, and I ask you to consider how you can forgive me.


Second, “I forgive you.” (This phrase does not have to follow the other. It can come years later, or it can even precede it. We can forgive someone before they ask for it, or even if they never ask for it.)


I want you to know what you did to me, I want you to know how I see it, and how it impacted me. Your behavior was painful, and it has changed our relationship forever. I am not exactly sure what our relationship will look like in the future, but I want you to know I forgive you. I promise to do my best to no longer hold this particular offense against you. This will be hard, and I’m sure I won’t do it perfectly—I may in fact, in my weakness, let it burn into a resentment, and then I’ll have to ask you to forgive me.


You wronged me in these specific ways, it has hurt me in these specific ways, and it has changed our relationship in these specific ways. And with all that stated, I forgive you, and because I do, I will not even bring it up after this, unless you would like to.


These are all big, expressive words to convey these truthful phrases. It doesn’t have to look exactly like this. Perhaps it’s best like this:


“Dude, that was so uncool.”


“Yeah man, I’m sorry ‘bout that. My bad.”


“Well, don’t do it again, okay?”


“Promise. We cool?”


“Yep. We cool.”


Peace begins with pause,


The 2nd Best Phrase You Can Say

“That does help explain your actions, but it does nothing to excuse them.”


Today’s phrase may not be something you’ve ever heard, much less something you’ve ever said. But in my experience, it’s the best way to make sense of people’s past actions and help everyone find a better future.


Remember the Tiger Woods adultery scandal from a few years ago? He was found engaging in numerous extra-marital affairs, and eventually divorced.


He also went to treatment for his compulsive sexual behavior. When most media reported this, people threw around terms like “sex addiction” and “illness.” Scores of people made jokes and comments about him using his “illness” as an excuse for his terrible behavior.


What the world needed was today’s phrase. Tiger’s struggle with compulsivity was something borne out of a complex arrangement of his upbringing, his unprecedented fame, his biochemistry, his marriage, and a million small choices he made along the way. In order for him to heal, and change his behavior, he needed to understand all of those factors and how they affect him.


All of those factors helped explain his behavior. But none of those factors excused it. He is still 100% guilty for his behavior—no one caused him to do anything. But learning to understand everything that led his brain to choose such destructive behavior is the only way to change it.


Same thing with each of us, and with everyone we love and lead. When you ask your kid, or your employee, or your spouse, “Why did you do that?” you may think whatever they give you is an excuse. And they may try to use it that way. That’s when this phrase is so amazingly helpful. It gives you a chance to be understanding, while holding them accountable, at the same time.


Just watch out—start using this on others and they’ll start using it on you (which is a good thing).


Peace begins with pause,


The 3rd Best Phrase You Can Say

“I feel (insert adjective here).”
(someone wishing to name, and tame, their emotions)


This week we’re looking at the best phrases we humans can say to ourselves, and to one another. Yesterday’s was “Tell me more.”


Today’s is more a formula than a phrase: “I feel (insert adjective here).”


There’s a lot of data out there suggesting over 90% of our decisions are directed by our emotions at the moment, not our rational thoughts. And most of the time, we’re not clearly aware of the emotions driving those decisions at the time.


People in recovery have learned this. AA folks have a saying: If you can name it, you can tame it. Emotions are amazing servants, but terrible masters, so learning to tame your emotions and get them to serve you is a worthy lifelong task.


“I feel ____________” helps you do just that. Note that there is only one blank to fill in. That blank can only accept one word, and one word only. That’s how you know what you’re naming is actually a feeling.


I feel neglected.
I feel respected.
I feel happy.
I feel distraught.


One word, and one word only. Anything more and you’re describing something other than a feeling. “I feel like killing that guy” is not the expression of an emotion. That is stating a reaction to the emotion. “I feel enraged” is actually what’s going on.


Try it today. Take a moment here and there to simply identify what you’re feeling. Angry? Lonely? Scared? Excited? Hopeful? Conflicted?


Notice we’re not saying I am angry, or I am lonely. These are statements of identity, and they are simply not true. We do not embody our emotions, we feel them. And therefore we can tame them.


Peace begins with pause,


The 4th Best Phrase You Can Say

“Tell me more.”
(people who pause, seeking to understand before getting people to understand them)


A few months ago we looked at the 4th Worst Phrase You Can Say. Today is the 4th Best: Tell me more.


When you need to pause after hearing bad news, try “tell me more.” It’s a great way to calm your emotional reactivity, and increase your approachability, during any crisis. It’s an amazing way to stay ScreamFree in the heat of the moment.

“Dad, don’t come pick me up right after school,” says your darling pre-teen daughter.

“How come?” you ask calmly.

“I got detention and I need to stay for an extra hour. I hate my teacher!”

“Hmmm….tell me more about what happened.”


Now, is this what you’re feeling toward your daughter in that moment? No. What you’re feeling is more like “Young lady, what the heck did you do this time? And oh, you hate your teacher? I’m sure the feeling’s mutual!”


But “tell me more” operates as your own pause button, giving you something to say that gives your brain a chance to respond rather than react. It’s especially what you need if you want your daughter to continue approaching you as her struggles only get bigger.


Try it today.


Your kid is upset, or in trouble? “Tell me more, son.”


Your boss is displeased with your performance? “Could you tell me more about what I could do differently?”


Your spouse is accusing you of something, especially if you think he’s wrong? “Please tell me more—I really want to understand what you mean.”


Peace begins with pause,


Questions to live by

“Most of us become parents long before we stop being children.”
(Lionel Kauffman)


In our family, this quote couldn’t be more true. Jenny and I were practically babies ourselves when we got married, and I shudder to think how naïve we were when our daughter Hannah came into the world.


Regardless of when you choose to commit your life to another, or bring another life into the world, nothing asks you to grow up, over and over again, like being married, and being a parent. Suddenly the whole world looks different, and it’s easy to think you’re supposed to have all the right answers. But that mentality is actually the mark of a child. Being a grownup doesn’t mean you have the right answers. Quite the opposite, in fact. It means you’re learning to ask better and better questions.


Questions like these, for marriage:
* How can I truly listen to my spouse today?
* How have I been contributing to the very communication problems I’m complaining about?
* If my spouse could change one habit of mine, what would it be? Would I be willing to change it? Why or why not?


And these, for parenting:
* How much time have I planned to be with each of my kids this week? Is that enough? Too much?
* What is my child going through with her friends right now, and how can I be better understanding?
* When should I protect my child from life’s dangers, and expose him to life’s lessons?


What are some marriage/parenting questions you’ve learned to ask yourself?


Peace begins with pause,


Without truth…

“If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”
(Bishop Desmond Tutu)


In order to find your peace, you have to face your conflicts. And this may mean forgiving some people in order to reconcile your differences.


A critical mistake occurs, though, when we skip over the truth in order to get to the reconciliation.


This is what Bishop Tutu says happened in South Africa. In order to rid the nation of apartheid, they held Truth & Reconciliation hearings all over the country. They couldn’t jail everyone who did appalling acts, so they had to find a way to heal. After a while, though, they began to tire of naming all these acts, and they hurried the reconciling.


This was a mistake, Tutu says.


That’s why, when he was asked to help Rwanda heal after its episode of horrific genocide, Tutu helped them focus on truth. They couldn’t jail everyone who committed the atrocities, but they could hold trials, where the accused had to face the spouses they had widowed, and the children they had orphaned. Only then could there actually be healing.


We cannot adequately forgive people without naming, clearly, what we’re forgiving. There can be no reconciliation without truth.


Peace begins with pause,


Wanna Change the World?

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
(Leo Tolstoy)


In one sense, of course the quote above is true.  But in the selfie-social world we all live in, we wish to change neither ourselves, nor the world—we just want to change the way the world looks at us.


Funny thing is, though, when we change ourselves we accomplish all three: We change, the world benefits from our self-improvement, and as a result people think higher of us.


Peace begins with pause,


What’s the worst that can happen?

“It’s a huge step forward to realize that the worst thing to happen is never the event, but the event and losing your head.”
(Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way)


The simplest tool I know for combating a known fear is to ask the question, What’s the worst that can happen?


You’re facing a financial deficit, for instance, and you’re afraid you won’t be able to pay the bills. What’s the worst that can happen? Go ahead and take it to an extreme level.


“Well, we get so far in debt we have to sell one of our cars to make ends meet, I’ll have to take on some extra work, and we’ll eventually lose our house and have to move into some cheap rental.” Or, perhaps it’s this: “We’ll lose everything and have to declare bankruptcy, crushing our credit for at least 7 years, and we’ll have to move in with your mother.”


Okay, all of that would certainly stink. But two thoughts:
1. What are the odds that the worst will actually come to pass? Think about it—how many times in your life has the absolute worst come to fruition? Hardly ever, if at all.


2. Even if the worst did happen, that wouldn’t actually be the worst thing. The worst thing, as Holiday’s quote above reminds us, would be to go through all of that and lose yourself in the process. That means freaking out, cratering emotionally, and continually screaming at those closest to you.


Good thinking, good feeling, and good relating are certainly affected by our circumstances. But they are also the very best skills we can use to change those circumstances (and enjoy good relationships along the way).


Peace begins with pause,


Appreciating Appreciation

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
(William James)


The easiest way I know to bring great harmony into your marriage is to just say thank you. Go out of your way to discover something your spouse does that makes your home life possible:
* cleans the dishes
* reads to the kids
* pays the bills and minds the finances
* works hard to make money
* listens to you without distraction
* speaks highly of you in front of others
* rakes the leaves
* cooks dinner
* looks at you in a way that reminds you you’re still attractive


This isn’t hard, or complicated. It can be vulnerable, however. And it can feel emotionally expensive, especially if you’re resentful that your spouse is the one who under-appreciates you.


Do it anyway. Don’t make a huge production out of it; do it drive-by style–notice something, or remember something, and shoot off a brief text. Or mention it as you’re walking from one room to another, with a gentle pass of your hand across the back.


“Hey, thanks for getting the groceries after work yesterday.”


Nothing more. Make it brief and specific, without any generic commentary like, “You’re such a wonderful wife…” Make it sound almost nonchalant, giving the impression that you just wanted to note that you noticed her/him.


Make it a habit, even if it doesn’t come back to you right away.


Trust me on this one.


Peace begins with pause,