Worth Reading - 2/11

1. From the Art of Manliness on Backhanded compliments. This is a good read for either gender:

A friend of mine told me about a compliment she received the other day from a co-worker. “Bridget,” he said to her, “you look like you’ve lost a lot of weight! You’ve still got a ways to go, but keep it up!”

The colleague clearly intended for the comment to come off as praise, but it instead had the very opposite effect. Rather than hearing “Congrats on the weight loss!” all my friend heard was, “You’re still fat.”

Bridget had been the recipient of what’s called a “backhanded compliment.” It’s a bit of praise laced with an insult — a rose with a thorn.

2. David Brooks from the NY Times on the importance of forgiveness. In other words, let's get over the Brian Williams thing:

There’s something sad in Brian Williams’s need to puff up his Iraq adventures and something barbaric in the public response.

The sad part is the reminder that no matter how high you go in life and no matter how many accolades you win, it’s never enough. The desire for even more admiration races ahead. Career success never really satisfies. Public love always leaves you hungry. Even very famous people can do self-destructive things in an attempt to seem just a little cooler.

The barbaric part is the way we respond to scandal these days. When somebody violates a public trust, we try to purge and ostracize him. A sort of coliseum culture takes over, leaving no place for mercy. By now, the script is familiar: Some famous person does something wrong. The Internet, the most impersonal of mediums, erupts with contempt and mockery. The offender issues a paltry half-apology, which only inflames the public more. The pounding cry for resignation builds until capitulation comes. Public passion is spent and the spotlight moves on.
I am also thinking about intramural Christian debates about interpretation—whether we are talking about Bible translation or the days of creation or the fulfillment of prophecy—where one side will insist that they interpret the passage “literally.”

I am not a fan of linguistic legalism and I recognize the need for terminological shortcuts, but I am an advocate for clarity, and the use of an ambiguous term like literal can create confusion. It’s a single term with multiple meanings and connotations—which is true of many words—but the problem is that many assume it means only one thing.

So my proposal is that if we have a moratorium on this word, we have a chance of speaking and hearing with greater understanding.

Since I have no real authority to call for an actual moratorium and it has little chance to succeed, my alternative proposal is that when someone asks you if you take the Bible “literally” or a passage “literally,” you ask what they mean by the word and then proceed to answer in accordance with the definition they provide.
When Rowe says “there’s no such thing as a bad job,” he doesn’t mean that work won’t sometimes be hard and difficult and toilsome and unfair. He means that through each season, work orients our hearts and hands in healthy, formative, sacrificial, and productive ways, and we best not trample over the crucial components that such a process provides. By tinkering with and bickering over the byproducts (the numbers, the paychecks, the contracts), we do nothing to improve the source. “Doesn’t matter how well-intended the policy,” Rowe concludes. “The true cost a $20 minimum wage has less to do with the price of a Big Mac, and more to do with a sound of thunder.”

As we put our hands to the plow and train up the next generation to do the same, let our attitudes and goals not be determined or driven by the price of a paycheck or Big Mac, but grounded in the service and sacrifice it represents. Less thunder. More flourishing.

5. Another helpful parenting post from Aaron Earls. This one is about viewing children as humans, not as machines.

What annoys you the most? For me, it’s inanimate objects—machines, technology and the sort.

While it’s not to say I never get angry at others, I tend to think people mess up all the time. It’s kinda what we do. But machines … they’re supposed to work.

When I push the button on my laptop, it should start up. If it doesn’t, it can’t blame its nonexistent emotions. It should respond immediately and appropriately because that’s what it has been created to do.

In evaluating my parenting, I realized much of my anger with my children arose from my having the wrong perspective about them. I was viewing them as if they were machines.

You may be doing the same. Here are six questions to see if you fall into the same temptation of treating your children like robots.