Q: My financial portfolio has taken a huge hit in recent months. I'm trying to keep a good perspective; after all, "money is the root of all evil," right? But I'm still struggling with the idea that everything I have leaned on for security is in jeopardy. Do you have any advice?
Jim: First, let's correct that Biblical quote. The Apostle Paul actually said, "The love of money is a root of [much] evil." Money itself isn't bad -- but our desire for it often leads us astray. In context, that sentence comes in the middle of a discussion of contentment which begins: "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy chapter 6).
Contentment is the ability to say, "Enough is enough," whereas the love of money almost always translates into a quest for more and more. The more you have, the more you crave, and the more you fear that someone or something may take it away from you. That's why greed and anxiety are constant companions. Together they create a state of mind that's the exact opposite of being content. Contentment has been described as "looking back without regret, looking at the present without envy and looking to the future without fear."
Contentment has everything to do with your relationships -- with God and other people -- and nothing to do with your money. In essence, it's recognizing that true security comes from connection with something bigger and longer lasting than a bank account. Once you're free from the love of money and the relentless pursuit of wealth, you can have a lot or a little and be content at the same time. That's the secret of satisfaction, sufficiency and inner peace.
If you can see your life in this light and learn to embrace your situation, whatever it may be, with satisfaction and joy, then the richest man in the world has nothing on you. That's what the apostle means when he says that godliness with contentment is great gain.
Q: Is it appropriate to ask my kids how I'm doing as a parent?
Danny Huerta, Executive Director, Parenting & Youth: As moms and dads, we all have strengths and weaknesses. One of the best ways to identify points of improvement is to ask our kids.
As a therapist, I've found that some moms and dads feel threatened at the idea of receiving input from anyone, let alone their kids. They feel that feedback from children brings their authority and/or competency into question. But when it can be done in a healthy way, a family check-in is well worth it.
Check-ins simply involve asking your kids how things are going and whether there is anything getting in the way of your relationship with your children.
If you ask your kids, "How am I doing as a dad/mom?" chances are you'll hear the typical answer -- "fine." Having a list of specific check-in questions to guide conversation is very helpful.
A great one to begin with is: "What's it like to be with me?" Additional questions I've taught families over the years in my private practice include:
-- What has been going well (or not) for you this past week/month? How about for us as a family?
-- What do you need from me to make things better in our home this week/month?
-- Have I been listening to and understanding you well?
Another option is to use the following list of habits of healthy, thriving families to help you develop your own check-in questions. These behaviors include:
-- Spending time together
-- Sharing laughter and playfulness
-- Eating meals together
-- Taking part in prayer and self-reflection
-- Engaging in conversation
Be creative in developing your own set of questions. And don't be afraid of constructive feedback.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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