Five Ways My Mom is Ordinary

Mothers DayMy mom is really ordinary.

No, seriously. She is!

A middle class lady who grew up in Wisconsin, she eventually married an introvert from Georgia (my dad) and had five kids. We grew up in East Tennessee (one of the lovelier places in the country) living our ordinary lives. Now that I have children of my own, I can clearly assert that my mom is extraordinarily ordinary. Let me give five examples.

5. She Did Not Murder Me in My Sleep

Most mothers don’t murder their children so my mom is very normal to have not murdered me as a teenager. Despite my efforts to be a bull-headed and argumentative child, I never once feared for my life. You may say that failing to kill your eldest son is easy, but I beg to differ. She had many an opportunity to take a look at the arrogant boy in front of her and wonder what terrible mistake she had made in bringing me into the world.

Instead, she loved me. She discussed and talked and pushed and cared through many difficult years. She tolerated my lack of respect and laziness and foolishness patiently. She loved me well.

4. She Sacrificed Working to Stay at Home with Us

Mom chose the life of an ordinary house-wife. Life would have been easier for her had she worked and sent us off to school. The pressure through the 80s and 90s was constantly valuing the working woman and demeaning the homemaker. But mom stood firm in her ordinary-ness. She stayed home with us and ignored the fad of the day that said women must work.

3. She Pursued an Education for Us

My mom homeschooled us. We were one of the earlier families in our area to be homeschooled but certainly not the first. She had that very ordinary notion that her children should be educated and she worked to make that happen. She dealt with the ordinary pressures felt by the homeschooling community of the day such as the heavily over-blown notion that we would be unsocialized. By the time I graduated High School there was a thriving homeschool community in East Tennessee.

I have a particularly fond memory of going to Roane State Community College with my mom to start my first classes. I had no idea how this college thing worked and mom went with me and talked to the staff and basically held my hand through it. I wonder if she hadn’t been there that day how differently my life would be today. But, you know, this is ordinary mom stuff.

2. She Worked Hard for a Strong Marriage with My Dad

Mom and Dad have been married for almost 35 years now. They haven’t had the perfect marriage, but a sweet one. They are very dedicated and sweet with each other. Their marriage isn’t flashy. You won’t see Dad get up on a stage and sing some Sinatra to my mom. It is just a steady, kind relationship. Very ordinary.

Of course, half of marriages don’t make it at all in the first five years, so you could argue that 35 years is an accomplishment. You could even remind me that even those couples that “make it,” some of them don’t like each other. Mom and Dad clearly like each other. But I’ve never known anything different from this so I will confidently assert that their marriage is also quite ordinary.

1. She Showed Us Jesus

We attended church throughout my childhood. This is not an easy thing to do with three young children as I am discovering when I bring my four young children to church. We regularly listened to the music of Steve Green, Michael Card, Keith Green, and Patch the Pirate. The music in our home dripped with mentions of Jesus, grace, forgiveness, and the cross. All of these things were not unusual for a homeschooling family growing up in East Tennessee.

There is a particular song that has stuck with me named Answer the Call by Steve Green. As I look back on this song, it is the journey of my adult life.

I answer the call, I take my stand
I choose to live my days on Earth a faithful man
And to that end, I give my all
And in the strength and grace of God, I answer the call
The call to dedicate our lives to nurture our children and love our wives
A call to guard our heart and eyes, to press toward the goal
To win the prize!

Far from living up to these words, I see my own strange and difficult journey. A journey I may never have started but for reminders like this song.

As I look back at a childhood of a million ordinary things my mom did for us, I still know they are ordinary. There will never be a news broadcast saying that a mother fed her children dinner every day for twenty years, but just because a thing is ordinary does not mean it is not a very hard thing, even a commendable sacrifice.

The fact is that a million ordinary things over many years adds up to an extraordinary sacrifice that will pay off for myself and my siblings The debt that the generations of will owe my mom will grow to become incalculable in the decades and centuries to come.

So today I don’t Thank God for the several extraordinary things my mom did because those things had more impact in the moment, but less in the long run. Far more powerful is the endless tide of ordinary things. The legacy of my mom’s life cannot be adequately described by simply hanging onto the flashiness of the extraordinary but in the real power or a lifetime of hard, steady, and ordinary things.

I love you mom. Thank you for the ordinary things.

-Chip

Advertisements

The “Requiem for a Dream” Problem

Requiem_for_a_dreamAs anyone in the pornography recovery community can attest, there is a real challenge in determining what is safe to watch at the movies. There are bits of culture that are more difficult to avoid like commercials and billboards, but what we pay for at the theater is very much in our control.

The classic case of this is what I call the Requiem for a Dream Problem. The movie, Requiem for a Dream, is the story of how heroin addiction destroys the lives of four friends. Everything about the movie appeals to me. I have struggled with pornography addiction myself (not heroin, by God’s grace) and I love the raw nature of the movie. By all accounts, it is a classic film and worth seeing.

Unfortunately, it also has graphic sexuality and nudity which is only aggravated by the fact that I find Jennifer Connelly to be one of the loveliest actresses out there. So this movie is my equivalent of  an alcoholic walking into a bar. I should not watch it.

Hence, the Requiem for a Dream Problem. At what point does the artistic merit of the film fail to outweigh the sexual temptation it will cause me. I suppose it could be called the Black Swan Problem or the American Beauty Problem, both of which are thought-provoking movies with serious sexual content. I wish I could watch them, but I can’t.

As with most problems, one should first look at the Bible. I looked for the movie watching guide in there and wasn’t able to find one. But there are important principles that apply. I should be cognizant of my own weaknesses for lust and considerate of the harm the film may do to others. Requiem for a Dream might make put a friend with a history of heroin addiction in a terrible position for entirely different reasons.

We should remember that movies are just stories and storytelling is an important art in all cultures. There is real artistic value that serves my soul in many films. We should be looking for the good in them. The Passion of the Christ may have an attractive woman in it, but the merit for honoring God is so profound that I should resist temptation and enjoy the wealth of God-honoring praise this movie brings to my heart.

There are also many foolish ways to approach this problem. For anyone who struggles with lust (read men), the idea of flipping through channels or going to a movie with no research is foolish. No plan is a plan and in this case, it is a very bad one. Our art culture is far to saturated with sexual imagery for us to march on with no plan. If you’re going to a movie, check it out online to see if it meets your conscience’s standard.

This begs the question, What is my conscience’s standard? How do I determine when a film (or any piece of art) crosses the line from being flawed but acceptable and when it becomes too harmful to warrant watching at all? This is a very personal line, but I want to discuss some ways to think about the issue.

Redeeming Value vs. Tempting Content

To be sure, images and movements are not evil in and of themselves. Sins only happen in my heart. A nude image of a women is not inherently evil (in fact, she was created “very good”). What if that image were of my wife? It would be good and even holy for me to drink deeply in delighting in her. The Bible in unblushing in its recommendations to enjoy one’s spouse (Pro 5:18-19).

Additionally, there is merit to the idea of redeeming value in a film. The Shawshank Redemption is one of the greatest films ever made and yet it opens with a sex scene. It holds out such virtues as perseverance, hope, kindness, and justice. I love the line that Andy Dufresne gives, “Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And a good thing never dies.”

I don’t know if Andy is right, but it is a great quote in a wonderful movie. Is the film worth the temptation I face in the opening scene? I think so. I often skip the opening entirely as it is not that pertinent to the rest of the film.

But I must be careful. More often than not, I am tempted to find a movie I want to see, then I go scrounging around for artistic merit so I have an excuse to watch it. I am not an unbiased observer. Many men are looking for excuses to see these films and it is not in a search for holiness, but in a search for cute girls not wearing much.

We are like a kid at the grand canyon. We don’t ask what is a safe distance to view the canyon from, we ask how close we can get to the edge without falling.

What is tempting to me?

Another important consideration is what specifically tempts me. Obviously, nudity is very tempting and I almost never watch films with nude women. I had to give up the shows House of Cards and Game of Thrones for this reason. I really like both, but it was simply not worth the temptation and sin it was causing.

I can’t watch any movie where girls kiss other girls. For whatever reason, this is a weak spot for me. A film need not have nudity or even sex scenes to be problematic. So when you are determining what is acceptable for you, know your own heart and steer clear of your own weaknesses.

What is loving for the actor or actress?

If 1 Corinthians  6:18 is right and whenever an actor or actress sins sexually, they sin against their own body. It would be unloving in that case to support their efforts to hurt themselves. The fact that it is consensual is irrelevant. I recently had a compelling discussion with a friend who said that he will not watch a movie where an actress had to undress in front of the camera crew even if no nudity is shown on screen. He argues that it is unloving to her to support her exploitation by men.

A more compelling argument is to ask, What if she were my daughter? I love my daughter very much and it would break my heart if she were to be ogled by a whole camera crew (who, by the way, would immediately go an jack off in the bathroom). It would break my heart.

To be honest, I don’t know how far to carry this standard, but I found it very compelling. If you want a more clear discussion about it, check out Cap Stewart’s excellent article Sex, Lies, and Star Trek.

Is it Lawful? Is it Helpful? Is it Enslaving?

In the book Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll makes the case that many of the wisdom decisions we make need to not simply ask, “Is this a clear sin?” There needs to be a higher standard. He suggests 1 Corinthians 6:12 as a guide. In Paul’s argument, he asks whether something is not only sinful, but helpful. Pastor Mark then applies this more broadly to ask the following three questions.

Is it lawful? This excludes everything the Bible forbids and that the state forbids.

Is it helpful? This asks if the film benefits me. Is there a good reason to consume the film beyond the fact I have an evening free.

Is it enslaving? Will the image of that girl follow me around the rest of my life? Will I have to use extra self-control later because I won’t use it now? Will I sin because I watched this film?

Will your freedom cause others to stumble?

Let’s say you set a clear standard and have satisfied your own conscience. You are fully convinced in your own mind what is safe for you and are comfortable with a film. Wait, there is a final consideration.

Romans 14 is a whole chapter about how Christians should give deference to the weaker brother. We should always ask if this will cause another to stumble. This is strange for me to say because I may be the weak brother. I am asking you not to put me in a tempting situation. Almost every time I see someone cite Romans 14, they assume they are the stronger believer. Not so this time. I am the weaker brother.

We need to be very cautious and respectful when recommending and watching films that we are not setting up a brother to sin. Practically, this means no one should ever watch any of the Transformer films (they are so sexualized and they are just awful movies anyway).

So What do I do?

If you have asked all the above and your conscience is still uneasy about a film, you probably shouldn’t watch it. The solution to the Requiem for a Dream Problem is that I will never watch the movie. I want to. I really do. But it is not safe for me.

-Chip

The Movie Poster above is under copyright and is used under a Fair Use.

Make Her Glad You’re Home

3473338897_889e375ae0_oI sit in the car after a hard day’s work. The engine turns off and the interior light blinks on. Looking into the passenger seat, I pull up the mental energy to head into the house.

I’ve read the books. I know what to expect. My wife is just now pulling a delicious home-cooked meal from the oven. The children are playing thoughtfully and respectfully in the living room. My wife comes over to me and, with glowing affection, gives me a kiss and asks about my day. She looks radiant having just taken some time to freshen up.

Then cold, hard reality sets in. My real wife in my real house caring for my real children. She has made the hard decision to stay at home and home-school our kids. She doesn’t work outside the home even though she excels in the working world. She uses her tremendous gifts to care for and raise our children well. I am very grateful.

But with that gratitude, I better mix in some understanding. She has been working since the kids got up at 7 AM. No real breaks and always on call. With my four kids, she is essentially running a day-care (except she doesn’t get off at 5 PM). In addition, she has managerial functions of acquiring and delivering food for this hoard of little mouths. She is handling deliveries of mail and supplies and paying the bills. She then also coordinates the frequent home maintenance and repairmen who come and go.

And she often packs my lunch in the morning.

Far from the books that have so many recommendations for her about how she should take care of me when I go through the door, maybe I should consider how I should care for her.

Many men, including this man, feel like once we’ve worked hard all day, we are entitled to a little rest and relaxation at the end of the day. For that matter, I’m entitled to some good sex as well. I’ve worked hard. I deserve it.

But this attitude is not biblical at all. The oft-quote sections of scripture speaking to men never explain what I can expect from her. Far from it, every time the Bible talks to me, it reminds me of what I should be doing for her.

It’s called servanthood.

Loving my wife as I love myself means that as I sit in the quiet of my still car, I need to be aware that she is tired too. She has been working harder than I have in a poorly defined job without the accolades of employment. The hard-working employee gets a pat on the back from his boss. The hard-working homemaker gets the occasional dirty look at the grocery store and the periodic blog post reminding her that she is a second-class woman.

Her job is harder than mine.

Despite the books reminding me that my wife should greet me at the door with a smile, a warm hug, an understanding ear, and a hot meal, I am the chief servant. The question I should ask is what can I do for her. Far from demanding that she act glad to see me, maybe I should care so well for her that she will be glad to see me. I don’t need to see how much I can take from my family, but how much I can give.

As the daddy of four little people, it is completely unrealistic that my wife will be refreshed and thrilled to see me at dinner time. She will be at her most harried. But, rather than think of how terrible it is that God made things this way, what if this is an opportunity? You see, I can be the hero. What if I told her she could take a break and I cooked dinner? What if this is a chance to haul the kids all into a bath? What if I could help her and not drain her?

So, when I step out of that car, I will walk through that door not asking what she can do for me. No, I will walk into that house and help where I can. If I do this right, maybe she will actually be really glad to see me.

And sex, hopefully nice sex afterwards.

-Chip

Photo by Tiffany Terry and used with permission

Valentine’s Day: An Opportunity to Fail

dreamstimefree_163036Guys, you know what I’m talking about.

She has this all planned out. She has been planning her Valentine’s days since she was a little girl. The day begins with a full breakfast cooked to perfection. You leave for work with a look of gentle sadness in your eyes, knowing that you are leaving the gems of your life behind. She is pleasantly surprised to find a little love note in her purse from you. Yes, you did it again, a poem hand written by you that is perfectly in tune with her every heartbeat. She sighs gently to herself that she is the luckiest girl in the world.

You send her thoughtful texts from work reminding her that you know she is the most beautiful thing that God ever created. You instruct her to dress in something formal because there is a surprise date this evening to somewhere special. Right as she is finding the right dress, the doorbell rings. She answers it to find a delivery of the largest bouquet of roses she has ever seen. You sent a dozen for every year you’ve been married.

You arrive home looking fresh and relaxed after another day of killing it professionally. She is wholly secure in her financial future because of your great work ethic and careful planning just in case the worst happens. She looks radiant in her dress. You take one of the roses from the bouquet and with a deft hand you make a beautiful corsage on the spot that goes perfectly with her dress. You walk to the car holding hands as you drive to her favorite restaurant.

She is so surprised when the waiter beings you to a private table. You order for yourself and then show how carefully you have been studying her all these years by ordering what she would like as well. You check with her to be sure, but you were exactly right. As you sip champagne together you reminisce over all the great times you have had over the years. You tell her that when God made the world, he made her just right to be the perfect match for you.

You drive home holding hands in the car. When you arrive, you hurry over and open her door. When you go inside, you dim the lights and turn on her favorite romantic music. As you take her in your arms, she breaths a gentle prayer thanking God for such a wonderful husband. As the evening progresses, well, let’s just say it went well from there.

Not intimidating at all, right?

The real you wakes up on February 14th, nearly forgets to shave, hurries to work. Yells at the dog on the way out. Has a very stressful day at work. Rushes home and decides to fix that leaky faucet in the basement. After a long and exhausting day your head hits the pillow and you look into your dear wife’s eyes. Those hurt, angry eyes.

Crap, you forgot again. At least you weren’t away fishing this year.

None of us guys can live up to the Hallmark commercial. She won’t smile as big in real life as the girl in the Kay Jewelers commercial did. The fact is that only one word describes Valentines Day.

Intimidation!

We aren’t up to this. If she just liked sports more this would be easy. But no, she has dreams of romance and kindness. Less beer and more wine. What is a guy to do?

You have a couple of options. The worst one is to ignore the day. Sure it’s scary, but I promise she knows it’s coming. If you forget/ignore the day, she won’t. Minimal effort really is worth more than no effort at all.

Nearly as bad is a passing mention. “Happy Valentine’s Day honey” with a kiss on the cheek. She has dreams of being romanced and a simple well-wish will not cut it. You need to do more.

Some men fall into the trap of thinking this is about money. If you spend sufficient funds on flowers, chocolate, and a cute night gown (let’s face it, the night gown is a gift for you). To be sure, money helps. Particularly if you are a tight-wad or gifts are her thing. But let’s not pretend that money is honoring and showing her that you prize her. Money spent is only as good as it shows her that she is precious to you.

So let me show you the most excellent way. Demonstrate she is precious to you the other 364 days of the year.

I was recently discussing with my wife an idea I read in the book Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree. Every day, he writes a note on the 3×5 card to his wife affirming her in some way. She loves these notes so much that she has shoe boxes full of them from many years of notes. Even when he travels, he leaves prewritten notes for her.

My wifes’ response was priceless. “I can’t imagine a woman who wouldn’t love that.”

Hint taken.

As of last week, I have written a 3×5 card every day I work. My friends, this works. It is good for her to read these notes but it is also very good for me to write them. It is good to be reminded about the things I love about her. It is not that we don’t fight, but it created a very affirming atmosphere for us to fight in. It has been so good that I will be writing one to each of my children once a week.

Gentlemen, the best way to love your wives is not to show her you care one day a year with a glorious and romantic evening. She would much rather you did a few little things the other 364 days. If we have done well, Valentines day will be the culmination of a previous year’s work. It doesn’t help me much if God loves me on Sunday but has no help for Monday. Your wife needs you to love her well the rest of the year so that you can give her a single rose on Valentine’s Day, but she knows that rose is from a man who deeply loves and affirms her.

Will this solve all your problem, not by a long shot. Loving is hard. But if all loving has this kind of payoff, then loving her well is wonderful indeed.

Now go tell that woman specifically what you love about her.

-Chip

My Challenge to Older Men

old-man-talking-to-two-young-boysNever have generations been so different.

The older generation grew up in the depression and in the 1950s. They are hard working and frugal. They grew up in churches and were mystified by the sexual revolution. They were stunned when the cultural changes of their children came.

Most of them relied on the stable institutions of culture to reign in the exuberant change among their children and grandchildren. But, unlike in generations past, the change didn’t slow, it accelerated. With growing knowledge and technology we became both smarter and more foolish. My generation rejected the wisdom of the past. We didn’t need it, we didn’t want it.

Many institutions that tied older and younger men together were crumbling. With increased travel, grandchildren were further separated from their grandparents. The dinner table because less important. In churches, Sunday School separated into grades which further isolated generations from each other. With the advent of the internet, my generation became one of the most isolated in history.

In our foolishness, we not only became isolated, we celebrated it. We pretended that our Guild Leader in World of Warcraft was our friend. We lied to ourselves by saying we have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook. By only becoming close with people of our own generation. We pooled our ignorance and have become idiots in everyone’s eyes except our own.

Older men, that’s why we need you.

We don’t know how foolish we are but we do know how lost we feel. We need you to bridge that gap.

I know I am asking something extraordinary of you. The differences between the generations is so significant that it is more like crossing cultures than crossing the street. Despite the barriers, it is so important to serve the young men who aren’t in your churches. They are the leaders of tomorrow and they are the least likely humans to be in a church.

The current and coming crisis of your men is heartbreaking. My generation of men are a mess. They are terrible fathers, husband, friends, and lovers of God. While I am part of them and suffer from many of the same weaknesses they do, I am often exhausted to see the rampant foolishness they have.

We as a church need to ask the older men to sacrifice their preferences to serve the lost generation of young men. We desperately need those stately old men to engage with younger men and challenge them to better things. One of the great sins of the older generation is that they have not worked to bridge the gap to us younger men.

We need you.

One day there won’t be any of you older men left. You will have died and my generation will be the ones left to guide the ones after us.

God help us all.

We are not prepared for this. I’m begging you older men to reach down to us younger men and guide us. We are a generation of runaways who don’t like to be pushed or challenged. It will require extraordinary patience on your part to chase, encourage, correct, and love us. We are not so different than you.

Think about it, when you were young, you were foolish and stupid, just like us. What if no men had helped and supported you in that time. Where would you be now? We have grown up without fathers to show us the way. We need you older men to invest in us.

So, to the older men. Please love us enough to get past our smart phones and video games. We are crying out for someone to show us the way. We are lost and need guides. The choice is yours. You can abandon us or you can love us enough to break down the barriers we have put up.

Please choose to love us.

-Chip

Food and the Christian Guy: Part 2, Loving People with Food

supernachosbeef_other2I was recently struck by a situation involving food.

Sam was working downstairs and I was feeding the our four kids some oh so delicious nachos. When God created the Garden of Eden, there was likely a tree that would provide nacho sauce in its sap. It is one of the most delightful and tasty foods out there.

You can read into this that I love nachos.

So I’m feeding the kids and enjoying nachos in (I think) appropriate moderation. Sam was late coming up the stairs so I made a plate of nachos for her and put it to the side before i served any more to the kids or myself. As I looked at that plate when dinner was done, I realized that idolizing the nachos would make me unable to love Sam well. If I pined after having an over-full belly with nachos, I would not be able to serve her and save as much for her as I thought she could want.

I’ve never really thought of idolizing food in terms of love before.

We’ve all seen the teenage boys that raid a meal and don’t think of others and eat all the food. Then, when someone comes later (often the cook of the food), there is none left for them. This is idolatry. It is loving the taste of the food at the expense of caring for the much more precious people around the food.

It is the difference between food being a wonderful servant or a terrible master.

It makes me wonder, if I saw someone who was hungry, would I rather give them my lunch to love them or keep it for myself. To be honest, this never would have occurred to me before this. Idols have that way of becoming rights. We are not grateful for rights, we just expect them.

And I guess my heart just expects food and I am willing to sacrifice the joy of others to get it. It seems so harmless until this became clearer to me.

I am actually much encouraged to see this. It feels like something I would never have noticed on my own and so it has the flavor of the Holy Spirit showing me. It feels good to get this written down in a place where you all can encourage me to kill this idol. It is good.

The lie I believed is that killing this idol would be a grueling experience. Maybe I have not plumbed the vile depths of it, but so far, it has been good. It feels much freer to have food as a servant and not a master. I can imagine it will be much more freeing once God has helped me put it into real submission to him.

I hadn’t mentioned it, but I am also on Weight Watchers. I will put my weight into this article once I get it on Monday afternoons for you to follow. It will look like this.

Current Weight: (to be placed here on Monday afternoon)
Last weeks weight: 287.7 lbs
Total weight loss since 1/13: 0 lbs

I would appreciate your accountability and support as well as comments.

-Chip

Count Vicegrim’s Letters: Chapter 9 Sabotage

The Count Vicegrim LettersThe Demon Mudpot’s Annual Review regarding the Temptation of the Patient in His 23nd Year

Mudpot,

Stop telling me about the wedding. I know they are grotesque. I get it. The filthy vermin celebrating as two of them begin bonding. That insufferable bond. The Enemy really does unfairly handicap us by creating such an environment for exposing sin and learning to love. If he had any sense of fair play, he would not have created marriage.

What matters much more to me is what things you did at the wedding to start disintegrating relationships. The pressure is so intense on all parties that this is an opportunity to drive life-long wedges into relationships. Normally, it is more difficult with the couple getting married, but you can often build tensions into the relationship with each vermin’s in-laws.

Of course, because you didn’t write about this, I’m sure you didn’t take this opportunity. How typical of you!

On to your review.

Successes

Sometimes, even you trip over a good idea. You have begun to define what “in love” mean to your patient in a most helpful way.

You really have two options. You can define love in terms of only feelings. One is “in love” as being emotionally pleased with the other vermin. One is only “in love” when the feelings and desires are there. Once the feelings are gone, even for a moment, then one is “out of love.” The advantages of this are numerous. It is much easier to justify divorce with this definition of love. One of the great delights of being a tempter is to hear your patient say things like, “God would want me to be happy” as if divorce is the way to one’s happiness.

The other path is to describe love as a choice that is devoid of any feeling. “Love is an action” is often used to describe this. It speaks of love only in terms of commitment and honor. It is much harder to get these couples to divorce but the serious unhappiness they live in is nearly as good. It takes a special kind of denial to say that love does not need any feelings. Of course, the vermin are specially good at being in denial. The fact is, love is both commitment and feelings. It is both definitions at different times. That is why you need to convince your patient that it is either of them (we don’t particularly care which one) so that he will exclude the other one. Sometimes the miserably married Christian does almost as much good for us as the divorced one.

Your choice of having him define “in love” as exclusively a feeling is good. His personality lends itself to this error. Now your work must be to make sure he falls “out of love” as soon as possible. I noted that you mentioned he has a tendency toward depression in your last update. Why haven’t you mentioned this before!? No one is more out of love than a depressed man. More on this later.

One key to making him fall “out of love” is to exploit any native differences of personality between your patient and the female. Work so that both  feel that the differences are all because of bad intentions. With your patient’s existing selfish bent, make sure he is walking in the door and expecting her to care for him. If you can start with that, soon there will be a buffet of delights waiting for you. Moping, complaining, sexless marriage, depression, etc. The list is endless if you can make him wholly entitled to her time and attention.

I was pleased to hear how you have kept his mother as a closer confidante’ than his wife. This is great. Make sure that his wife knows of it and that she embittered by it. If you play this right, he can then be upset with his wife that he “has a good relationship with mom.” Never let him see that this is a sign that he does not trust his wife.

Failures

You have been writing me for this many years and have never once mentioned that your patient is prone to depression. Mudpot, I don’t need to ask for everything. You need to give me valuable information like this. We could have been exploiting this for many years now. I have instructed an associate of mine, Count Peacefail, to offer you some private tutoring on how to appropriate cause and manifest depression. He is one of the subtlest tempters I know with causing despair in the vermin.

I shall briefly review some of the material that Count Peacefail will teach.

The keys to despair are two-fold. First, you must convince your patient that a melancholy feeling is actually a sin in and of itself. As if sadness were wrong. This is obviously foolish because even the Enemy feels sadness and pain, but claims never to sin. This can add to the existing sadness when he is repenting of being sad at all. What is important about that is that he keeps staring inward into his soul and not looking outward at the Enemy. Additionally, he will be busy repenting for how he feels and not about the real cause of his despair (should that cause be sin).

The second key is to search for a cause for his sadness outside of himself. The key to maintaining despair is that he continue feeling that he is the victim of the sadness and has little to do with the cause. This is bolstered significantly if he has believed that sadness itself is a sin. As long as he is looking for who to blame for his despair, he will not look at his own soul to see if he is lacking trust in the Enemy.

What we must avoid, Mudpot, is that he will feel accepted by the Enemy in his despair? That is the path to the Enemy. If he feels accepted he will trust the Enemy and might pray and read the Enemy’s Book. He may find passages where other men and women were deeply distressed and the Enemy rescued them. He might seek real assistance from the church. He might avail himself of the graces that the Enemy provides.

So he must constantly feel that the Enemy is outraged at him. That way, he will always shy away from addressing the Enemy and seeking real help. I will let Peacefail address more specific strategies for your patient.

Overall, I am pleased with your progress this year. Together, we may be able to bring this dangerous patient down.

-Count Vicegrim

Image created by Cavin and used with permission