Tag Archives: compassion

How Can You Tell If Someone Needs Help?

junior-seau-gq-magazine-september-2013-sports-08

Earlier this week we discussed the difficulties that men have when it comes to asking for help.  If you read the blog then you know one of the examples we looked at was Junior Seau.  At the time I wrote the post I had yet to pick up my copy of the GQ this month.  I was surprised to find an article about Junior in its pages.  If you are a man there might be a lot of emotions that run through your body as you read it.  Two of the most prominent should be sadness and anger.

I was sad and angry for several reasons.  First, the man died way too young and still had so much to offer people.  Up until the point when he passed away he was an inspiring man.  Someone who had made it out of the slums of San Diego to an ocean front view and a lively foundation to help kids just like him escape poverty.  Second, there were people (especially men) who thought something wasn’t right and suspected something bad might or could happen.  I wouldn’t say they did nothing but at least from the article it certainly sounds like they could have done more.  If you ask your friend if they are okay and they say yes, but you know they are lying why would you just drop it?  Why wouldn’t you follow-up with them?  Organize other friends to intervene and talk openly with him about what is going on.

I would be the first to agree that Junior had to want help.  According to the story he asked for it but it doesn’t seem his friends offered any solutions.  When a person’s life is on the line sometimes we have to be more concerned about their health and safety than fearing we might offend them or lose their friendship.  Maybe they were afraid Junior would stop paying for things when they went out?  Who knows.  Regardless of the reasons more should have been done (again at least based on what was in the magazine.)

“He made terrible business decisions. He abused pills. He drank. He gambled away terrifying sums. It was clear to those who knew him well that he was struggling, but no one foresaw his suicide on the morning of May 2, 2012.” 

A  real friend doesn’t let that other bullshit stand in the way of getting things done and trying to help his friends.  “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17  A true friend will accept whatever adversity comes his way if it means he is looking out for a friend.  The challenge is trying to decide when a friend needs help, even more as men because we aren’t likely to come out and say “Bro I am really having a hard time and need help.”

I am not a professional when it comes to dealing with issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts and similar afflictions.  Anyone who is dealing with those and similar issues is strongly encouraged to seek professional help.  However, as a caring and compassionate person it is important we try to figure out what are some of the indicators that a person (especially a guy) is in trouble without him telling us.  As a lawyer, lay pastor and friend I have had plenty of opportunities to minister to and give counsel to many men over the course of my life.  While I haven’t seen it all, I have seen a lot.  I can say without a doubt what follows are the key things I have missed, overlooked or caught just in time when men I have cared about were in a bad spot.

1. Withdraws From Life or Activity

“But after retiring as a very wealthy man in 2010—he earned more than $50 million over the course of his long career—he began to behave uncharacteristically.  He withdrew from family and friends.”

It is human nature that we live our life in certain patterns.  Back in high school I used to work at Tom Thumb (which we lovingly called “The Finger”.)  After only a short time working there it was easy to see that my “regulars” always came in and bought the same thing every day.  It got to the point when I would see them pull up and I would have their lottery ticket and pack of smokes ready for them.  They always acted surprised that I knew what they would be purchasing, as if they had no idea they had bought the same thing every day for the last 6 months.  The truth is we often don’t realize the patterns we create in our daily lives.  It is done subconsciously because despite a desire for spontaneity we also find comfort in doing the same thing, the same way day in and day out.

Perhaps one of the most, if not THE most obvious signs that a guy is struggling with something in his life is when he withdraws from his normal patterns in life.  If he regularly attends church (other examples, softball, bowling, poker night or golfing) and then suddenly he hasn’t shown up in two or three weeks in a row something is almost guaranteed to not be right.  It might not be as serious as depression or suicide but it is a safe bet something is has gone haywire in his life.

We as men withdraw because we don’t want other men to know we are struggling and sure as hell don’t want to let them think we have a weakness or aren’t perfect.  Also, we have the idea in our heads if we show up to softball every guy is going to just figure out what happened or where we screwed up and then we have to add being embarrassed to the list.

One of my mentors as a young man was Joe Warfield who we loving referred to as “Pops.”  Sadly he passed away a few years ago after losing a long time battle with cancer.  Pops used to always refer to this as “going off into the weeds” and it is an abt description.  The idea being once a man gets too far into the weeds you can’t see him anymore as the weeds completely hide him.  I have seen it happen so many times and I am telling you the first sign is ALWAYS a withdrawal from normal activities but especially withdrawing from doing things with his guys friends.  This is why it is essential a man has guy friends he can hang out with.  Guys will hold other guys accountable in a way that women just can’t.

2. Drug and/or Alcohol Abuse – Other Addictive Behaviors

There is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying some beer or having a scotch and cigar.  Nor is there much harm in heading to the track to bet on the ponies.  That isn’t what I am trying to say.  However, many people (not just men) try to use alcohol, drugs and other addictive behavior (i.e. gambling) as a way to escape the pressure they feel in their heads.  Men chase that high from  those activities as a brief and enjoyable break from the stress, depression or other problems plaguing us.  However, most of the times those very things that give us a “break” come back and haunt us making our complicated situation now untenable and usually with few alternatives for a way out.

“We landed in Vegas one time and immediately, within hours, he won 800-something thousand dollars.  I said, “Let’s go home, surf, chill, pay some bills.” But after dinner a whale-watcher [a casino handler charged with roping in big-money gamblers] comes up to the room. Not even two hours later, he comes back up and hits the table with a glass and starts cussing.  He had lost it all. He’s lying on his bed looking at the ceiling, and I go, “Buddy, you gotta stop this, man.” He goes, “We got this. We’ll get ’em tomorrow.” The next morning the whale-watchers show up. June got another half-million dollars, and he goes back down and loses the whole thing.”

You don’t need to blow that kind of money that quickly for your friends to be concerned.  Clearly this is an unlikely situation for most anyone who reads this blog.  It just illustrates not only a potential addiction problem but also that your friend has quit caring what happens to him (i.e. his money.)  I doubt you have many friends that make the kind of cheddar where they can walk away from dropping $1000 (or whatever amount) and NOT care.  Which leads into our third point.

3. Careless or Reckless Behaviorjunior-seau-gq-magazine-september-2013-sports-05

Granted drug and alcohol abuse could fit into this section but there are other signs your friend might be in trouble even without the drug and alcohol abuse or gambling.  I am not talking about a friend suddenly deciding he wants to go skydiving when he has never done so in the past.  Unless of course he wants to go alone and without a parachute.  That should probably tell you something is not quite kosher.

Several months before he ultimately killed himself Seau drove off a seaside cliff and somehow managed to survive the crash.  He claimed he fell asleep at the wheel and drove off by accident but to do so without cranking the wheel intentionally is just not possible at that part on the highway.

I have had several friends who, when struggling with depression and other things have behaved in extremely careless ways.  One friend in particular purposely would drive recklessly just hoping he would get into an accident whereby he would be killed.  He purposely didn’t wear a seatbelt while doing so and often had been drinking too much.  How he never died in a crash and rarely even managed to get into an accident is a miracle (and I don’t use that phrase lightly.)  Another friend started picking fights with the wrong kind of guys when we would be out somewhere.  Eventually one night while out alone he finally picked the right guy and almost had his head caved in.  He was in a coma for two days, broke an arm, a few ribs and a lot of brain cells.  When his friends (including me) found out we got him help – once he finally was released from the hospital.  He didn’t like it and cursed us out like a sailor for forcing him to get help but it was the right call.  He managed to pull his life together, got married and even has a few kids and has stayed on the straight and narrow ever since.  Fortunately, both of those stories have a happy ending but many more do not.

4. Sometimes You Just Know

Sometimes you just know that something isn’t right.  You might not be able to point at any particular set of circumstances or activity but there is just something in your gut that tells a person their friend is in some kind of trouble.  Don’t ignore that feeling.  If you have it, it likely means you are on to something, especially if that feeling doesn’t go away.

So if you have that feeling what should you do?  First, be sure you are taking time to really observe your friend’s behavior.  I don’t mean stalking them I simply mean try to be more observant about the things they say and what they do when you hang out.  If they are the kind of person who returns calls or texts, are they doing that?  Or have they stopped?  Or has it been infrequent with no real reason for the delays.  Second, you have to discuss your concern with them and don’t simply take “everything is fine” for an answer right away.  Finally, I know I mentioned it before but you can’t be afraid to upset your friend with your concern.  If you have to be a jack ass and really force them to open up to you about their life than do that.  True friendships with deep roots can survive any storm and getting in a friends face about their behavior is the kind of thing that a friend is supposed to do.

We are our brother’s keeper and it is important we take that role seriously.  Everyone needs a hand up at some point in their life even if they never realize it.

Here is hoping you have a great weekend!  Until Monday make it a better day!

Andrew

How Do I Become a Real Man of God, Pt 3.

godly-man

Happy Thursday Gentlemen!  What a crazy week it has been!  I missed a day on Wednesday but it couldn’t be helped so we are picking up where we left off on Tuesday.  Today we wrap up our discussion about what it takes to be a Godly man.  I hope you have enjoyed the journey.  As always comments are appreciated either here on the blog, via twitter @BetterMenNow or via email BetterMenNow@gmail.com

Let’s recap quickly what we learned so far:

  • A real man understands that God’s purpose must permeate his entire life (See Like 6:38.)
  • God gave men dominion and stewardship over the earth (See Genesis 1:26-31.)
  • A real man must develop a need and love for God and His presence
  • He must also seek spiritual renewal including renewal of his mind in order to follow after the heart of God
  • Dedication to developing your talent and gifts
  • Marriage and family comes first
  • Commit to learning, teaching and following God’s word
  • Be active in your faith

Keep in mind we aren’t looking for perfection and we all fall short day in and day out in our relationships, including the one we have with God Almighty.  That is what this blog is all about, being a better man today than you were tomorrow and being a better man tomorrow than you were today.

#7 A Commitment to Farmingbig_USDA_cultivate

Say what?  Okay I don’t actually expect you to head out to the back forty and start sowing seeds or anything.  This point is really about cultivating, but I am sure farming probably grabbed your attention.  One of the reasons God created men is to cultivate in others what God has created in us.  Thus real men of God are committed to helping other men and women be the best they can possibly be.  It really boils down to the laws of sowing and reaping.  When I was a younger man I had some really wonderful male role models (my father included) who helped teach me how to be a man and a man of God.  Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today nor would I be married to such an amazing woman.

These men spent countless hours talking to me, encouraging me and kicking me in the butt when I needed it, all with one goal in mind: to make me a better man.  Now that I am older (and hopefully wiser) I am compelled to pay that forward into the lives of other men and women I come into contact with.  That is not to say I have arrived but rather I am now in a place where I believe God is calling me to give back.  The “farming” should start in your family (assuming you are married) or with your friends, co-workers if you are still single etc.

A man of God encourages his family, friends and co-workers in their individual gifts and abilities and is committed to helping them develop themselves anyway he can.  There is something ingrained in us as men whereby we experience joy and fulfillment in seeing others develop into their full potential.   I saw how much my father enjoyed teaching kids in little league baseball and how much satisfaction he got as we developed into good ball players in our teen years.  He often talks about how much he enjoyed that experience and I truly believe he misses not having an opportunity to do that today.

Commit yourself to cultivating the same faith, talent and passion in others and God will bless you.

#8 …And Justice for All

“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.  It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 (MSG)

____and_justice_for_all__metallica_cover_fan_art__by_phenomenaldrawer-d4ty1g3If you are a man of God then at your very core you long for justice, mercy and compassion, for these are three of the key components that make up God.  Many people want to say love, nurturing and community are at God’s center but they are incorrect.  God is a god of justice, mercy and compassion and if we claim to follow him than those three things must also beat in our own hearts.

Justice – is defined as doing right by others.  When we see others who are unjustly treated it often provokes an angry response in us and we desire to right the wrong or help them find someone else who can.  I love what it says in Micah, “…Do what is fair and just…”

Mercy – this one can be a bit more difficult.  Mercy is defined as: having compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV).  I will be honest I struggle with this on occasion and it is one of the harder things for me to practice on a consistent basis.  If you have ever been in a situation where someone truly had mercy on you when you didn’t deserve it you know how humbling it can be.  An important component of this is rejecting the temptation to get your own revenge.  God calls us to freely forgive people and everything we can do to help them believe in Jesus Christ.

Compassion – sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.  The simplest way to think about this is by applying your skills or strengths to meet another persons need.  This can be as simple as having spare change to help out a person looking for food or stopping to help someone along the highway who has a flat tire.  When you come across someone who has a need you should ask yourself “do I have it within my power to fix that need?” Don’t just walk away or ignore them hoping someone else will help, God probably put you in that situation to reflect his compassion for that person.

#10 Playing Tough Dtough-d

Last but not least a real man of God realizes he cannot let down his guard.  As men of God we must be careful not to allow distractions into our lives that might cause us to lose connection with God.  You fight so hard to gain ground in your faith you must guard your heart to prevent the enemy from taking back what is yours.  This requires us to fully trust and rely on God.  If we can hold tightly to Him and keep our focus on the vision he has given us it will help us drown out the noise and distractions around us.

Well this was a bit longer than I intended, I hope you hung in there for all of it today.  If not come back because it will still be here tomorrow, ha!  Hope your Thursday is productive! Until tomorrow make it a better day!

Andrew

@ACSloss

@BetterMenNow

 

Find An Anchor For Your Life

melancholy-forest

“Well, I woke up Sunday morning

With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt

And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad

So I had one more for dessert

Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes

And found my cleanest dirty shirt

Then I washed my face and combed my hair

Stumbled down the stairs to meet the day 

I’d smoked my mind the night before

With cigarettes and songs that I’d been pickin’

But I lit my first and watched a small kid

Playing with a can that he was kicking 

Then I walked across the street

And caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken

And oh it took me back to somethin’

That I’d lost somewhere, somehow along the way 

On a Sunday morning sidewalk

I’m wishing, Lord, that I was stoned

‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday

That makes a body feel alone 

And there ain’t nothin’ short of dyin’

As half as lonesome as the sound

Of a sleepin’ city sidewalk

And Sunday mornings coming down.”

– Sunday Morning Coming Down – Johnny Cash

I promise I am not trying to have a Johnny Cash themed blog this week.  Turns out this particular song is a good metaphor for how I am feeling this morning.  It has been a difficult week and I won’t lie about it or pretend otherwise (despite what my friends and in-laws have to say about it.)  I didn’t sleep well last night and woke up around 6am unable to get back to sleep.  For many of you that might be considered sleeping in.  However, when you didn’t go to bed until almost 1am it makes for a difficult morning.  Just so I am clear, I wasn’t stoned last night.  I also wasn’t up late smoking and picking at my guitar like the song suggests.

Johnny’s song (which I think was originally written by Kris Kristofferson) is a rather melancholy song and I guess that is just the mood I find myself in this morning.  I hope you will forgive my honesty this morning.  Generally it seems that people who write blogs never seem to have bad days nor find themselves wrestling with personal issues.  However, I promised when I started this blog to not hold back or pull my punches and that includes dealing honestly about what is happening in my own life.

Today is just a very powerful reminder that when we go through life we all need to have some kind of anchor that holds us down and keeps us in place when the winds of life start to bellow and howl.

As men we often turn to self-destructive type behaviors and while a complete list would be very long it can include things like drugs, alcohol, over-working, taking unnecessary (and sometimes life threatening) risks, gambling, etc.  Other people are able to find an anchor in healthier options such as family, friends and exercise.  I used to believe that marriage would be that kind of anchor for me.  Matter of fact before getting married I was 100% confident of this fact.  Turns out I was wrong.

I have found in my own life the only anchor that is effective to hold me down is God’s word and the promises contained in the Bible.  People too often let me down or don’t give a shit enough to be a reliable anchor (in my opinion.)  Yet the one constant thing in my life is God’s word (and yes Ray, baseball.)  Many of you likely don’t feel the same way, about either of those things.  I also would be willing to bet you haven’t ever really tried to anchor your life in God’s word either.  It is okay if you haven’t.

No matter how often people disappoint, fail to honor their word, live with integrity or take advantage of your thoughtfulness, God’s word is always there.  His word is always true.  Even when you make bad choices; especially the ones you now have to live with until you die, God is always there.

My God will never forsake me or abandon me during my time of need.  When I cry out to him, he hears me and delivers me from evil.  My life is a testament to his faithfulness, kindness, mercy and compassion.  At times it isn’t easy to see it that way and God can be easily missed from one day to the next.  However, I have found my inability to see or find him from day-to-day is my fault, not his.

If you are going through a rough stretch of life or just having a difficult day I can’t recommend enough picking up the Bible to find encouragement, hope and motivation.  I know it can be an intimidating book to try to read.  However, if you start in Psalms I think you will feel better about it.  Psalms is a book located in the Old Testament containing poems and songs (many written by King David) that are uplifting and chalk full of God’s promises.  Most importantly there are some very honest conversations between the author and God.  Those prayers and conversations are more honest than anything you will find if you listen to the most popular preachers on TV.

You have nothing to lose by giving it a try.  Test God and his word.  He offers a 100% satisfaction rating or your money back.  If you need suggestions of how or where to start please comment above or below.   You can also e-mail me directly at BetterMenNow@gmail.com or tweet me @BetterMenNow

Until tomorrow I hope you have a great day!

Andrew

10 Tips to Improve Your Relationship That We Almost Always Forget (or Ignore) Part I

ww2-156

Good morning gentlemen!  Hope all is well and you had a fantastic weekend!

I can’t believe how many horrible stories I have heard recently about relationships.  Most of them have been marriage or dating relationship stories but some have been work relationships, friendships and of course family (perhaps the worst of all!)  I have been thinking about all of these stories and the advice I have been suggesting to friends, co-workers and family in the recent weeks and thought I would share here with you this week.

My apologies if you feel like this might be a little overdone after my week-long blog on 12 Lessons I Learned From Marriage but I hope over the next two days you will see these things are very different.  While many of these apply specifically to intimate relationships there is still wisdom below that can be applied to platonic relationships.  We will be covering five today and five more tomorrow.  I hope you enjoy and get something that will help you be a better man.

1. Let go of old wounds through forgiveness.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians imagesCASGZ5XV3:13-14 (NIV)

The only person you are hurting when you refuse to forgive others is you.  Many times people don’t realize they have done something to hurt your feelings or to offend you, no matter how obvious you think it should be to them.  Sometimes people will hurt you intentionally, knowing what they are doing and simply not caring how it will affect you.  Although to be fair most of the time people hurt others is in an attempt to avoid their own personal hurt.

Regardless of intentions chances are these “other” people aren’t walking around with the burden of hurting your feelings, offending you or physically hurting you.  However, when you fail to care for your own wounds they will fester, get filled with puss and infect every area of your life.  The only real solution is forgiveness.  You have to have a conversation with yourself and allow for forgiveness to flow.  It will set you free and breath new life into your relationships.

2. Come clean when you make a mistake.

Men this can be especially difficult for us to do but is essential for keeping our relationships healthy! So many arguments, disagreements and relationship problems start with a persons inability to admit when they have made a mistake.  Failure to admit our shortcomings is usually where issues start to pile up and begin to build into mountains in our relationships.

If you can go back and figure out where you went wrong (regardless of what the other person has done wrong since then) and come clean I promise you will see immediate results in your relationship (Hello, make-up sex!).  You will also eliminate a lot of tension and anxiety that has been building up in your relationship too.

3. Stop gossiping and start communicating.

“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.” Eleanor Roosevelt 

“A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28

imagesCAP1FTV3Here is the rule: if you don’t have the balls to say it to their face, you shouldn’t be a coward and say it behind their back.  Period.  End of discussion.  Often when I hear people bitching about others I am always surprised when I find out they haven’t bothered to bring their grievance to the person they are stabbing in the back.  The look of indignation I get when I suggest they talk about it with the person involved before they talk to everyone else about it is always entertaining.

It is easy to bitch and complain about someone and never see things get better.  As a man you need to step up, quit acting like a New Jersey Housewife and confront the person you have an issue with.  Hopefully it will only involve an intense discussion but if it requires you to step up and knock someone on his ass you just might have to do that.

4. Give others the space to make their own decisions.

This is one of the areas I struggle with the most especially in my marriage.  It is equal parts trust and letting go of things you can’t ultimately control.  Everyone’s experiences are different.  What worked for you might not work for others.  What didn’t work for you might actually work for others.  We must be careful not to treat people as if we know them better than they know themselves.  You have to allow the people you care about to make their own mistakes and decisions.  It is the only way we grow as individuals.  All the advice in the world isn’t going to help a person if we take away their ability to make (and learn from) their own choices.

5. Do things that make YOU happy.

A simple thing like adjusting our attitudes can make the biggest difference in our relationships.  Generally speaking when we are happy and enjoying life that happiness will radiate out on to others we are connected to.

Therefore, you need to start doing things in your life that make you happy.  A good first step is eliminate those negative parts of yourself or at the very least to minimize them.  We all have dark corners in our life that we wander into and sometimes camp out in.  Inside each of us exists an amazing power; the power of our own self-transformation.  If you don’t like results you are getting in life you need to change your choices.  It will require you to spend time doing some self-reflection but that is a key to building successful relationships and your happiness.happy-person

Once you can tap into those things that make you happy and bring you energy you should focus on those things and do more of them.  One great example is charity work.  Famous people are turning out in droves to serve or operate a charity because of how it makes them feel.  Something the rest of us have known for years.  Serving others is one of the most selfless acts we can engage in and also one of the acts which will make you happy!  There are plenty of other examples but you have to know yourself first!

Okay well that is it for today.  We will tackle 6 – 10 tomorrow.  In the meantime let’s hear it!  What else advice would you have to improve and maintain healthy relationships?  Comment above or below and let your voice be heard!

Until tomorrow, make it a better day!