BE YOUR OWN VALENTINE
The first major
holiday of the new year is upon us: Valentines Day. Many
are still recovering from broken New Years resolutions
and are just confronting the sticker shock from the past
holiday season. According to the Retail and Marketing
Association (RAMA), nearly 60% of Americans celebrated
Valentines Day in some way, spending about $10 billion
dollars--making it one of the biggest spending holidays
of the year.
probably buy my wife a card, some flowers and take her
out for lunch or dinner (probably lunch!), I want to
express my love for her in ways besides gifts and
spending, too. Gary Chapman's wonderful book "The
Five Love Languages" describes five primary ways we
express and receive love: gifts, acts of service,
kind words/appreciation, physical touch, and
model, think about some simple, inexpensive creative
way(s) to show your love. Gifts are nice, but both men
and women report what's really important to feeling love
are the other four "gifts."
thing about these "five love languages" is
that we often find ourselves expressing love in a way we
think our partners want to receive it but, more often,
we tend to express it in a way we'd like to receive it.
Some who love to receive gifts might assume their
partner is really into receiving gifts too, but he or
she might really desire quality time or a massage.
So, stop for a
moment or two and consider both how you want to express
love and also how your partner best receives love.
Hopefully, your partner will do the same.
For those who
don't have a significant other (as well as for some who
do) Valentines Day--and all that goes along with it--can
provoke feelings of dread. As I often say: holidays
can be the best and worst of times. So, whether
you're looking forward to Valentines Day or not, there
are many ways to show our love (romantic or not) for
others without feeling stressed, obligated or
many of us never consider is that Valentines Day is yet
another opportunity for us to be our own Valentine, too!
In what way(s) might we treat or nurture ourselves in a
healthy way? Many of us always put ourselves last!
Ideally, we shouldn't need a holiday to remind us to be
loving to others or ourselves but it is what it is. So,
what is one "gift" you can give yourself using
the "five love languages" model? Remember: I'm
my only life partner--from the moment I'm born to the
day I die.
we can give ourselves (or another) is the gift of
recovery. Consider getting counseling, attending a
self-help group, and/or reading books on
If you're a
shoplifter or shoplifting addict, what better gift could
you give yourself than the help you really need. No
amount of stolen stuff will fill your void or make life
right. If money is an issue for your, think of how much
it will cost when you're arrested (again?) and have to
pay for a lawyer, costs, fines and therapy then!
stealing from your work/employer, it may seem easy to
justify but you can't feel good about yourself and the
double-life you're leading. And, as with shoplifting,
there's no such thing as something for nothing: your
theft will be discovered and you'll be in a world of
financial and emotional pain.
If you're an
overshopper/overspender or a hoarder, no amount of stuff
will make you happy of at peace. If you're going to
spend money, why not really invest in yourself? There
has to be another way. Take that first step... the rest
you don't need to do on your own.
Loving and being
loved are no hallmark simple endeavors. But this
Valentines Day may be your best yet if you can find a
way to get real about what love really is and what it
ARMSTRONG: LESSONS LEARNED?
last year, the legacy of Lance Armstrong has been slowly crumbing as
increasing accusations, confessions by his former cycling teammates,
and circumstantial evidence put pressure on him to recently
"come clean" about not only his cheating but his
We love to have our heros, don't we? And we both love and hate when
they disappoint us. Hate it because we don't like feeling duped or
gullible. Love it because it reassures us that maybe we're not so
bad after all because they're not so good after all.
Now, I doubt that many are really surprised that even the best and
most cherished of our athletes cheat in one form or another. In the
last week, Alex Rodriguez--the star slugger of the New York
Yankees--is mired in an investigation that he "doped" as
recently as last year!
What makes Lance Armstrong's case a bit different--and, in my
opinion, more disturbing--are several factors. First, Armstrong was
able to avoid detection for nearly a decade, winning 7 straight
consecutive Tour de France competitions; this is a man living with a
lie for a long time. Second, Armstrong held himself out not only as
a role model athlete but a role model citizen with his LiveStrong
Foundation for cancer research--that makes his fall from grace more
"tragic" as many looked up to him as much for his athletic
prowess as for his philanthropism. Third, Armstrong not only denied
his own doping but actively bullied others who accused him, calling
them liars, and even sued people and publications (and winning
millions in damages) who accused him. Fourth, Armstrong only seemed
to come clean when absolutely cornered and banned from cycling
forever and, it appears, one of his main motivations is to salvage
his cycling career rather than coming clean for the sake of coming
clean. Fifth, in his recent interview with Oprah, he revealingly
stated he didn't think of himself as cheating because he looked up
the definition of cheater in a dictionary and it said "to break
the rules to gain an unfair advantage." Armstrong considered
doping to be so widespread in cycling that he was merely leveling
the field. That logic is the same as stating that since there is so
much stealing in the world, I'm not a thief if I steal. No
Now, lest I sound too judgmental here, let me say: I hope Lance can
rebuild his life. He didn't kill anyone but he and others who take
unfair short cuts in any field should have consequences. I get what
he said to Oprah about the culture of competition to be the best. I
get how much pressure one may feel to keep up an image. I get that
others doped, too, and for all we know, higher-ups knew, looked the
other way, and maybe even encouraged it. I get that he parlayed the
same drive to beat cancer into cycling and that he now realizes that
wasn't good. I also was encouraged to hear him say that he'll spend
the rest of his life regaining the trust and respect of people. I
hope he achieves that; indeed, this good be his biggest achievement
LYING AND CHEATING AND STEALING, OH MY!
RAISING HONEST YOUTH IN A DISHONEST WORLD
like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets
break through.--Jonathan Swift
All of us
take risks at some point in our life. Some risks are calculated,
some impulsive. Some risks relate to basic life choices: getting
into a relationship, going to college, applying for a job, buying a
home. We take other risks for the feeling of thrill, excitement, or
danger: driving fast, sky-diving, having an affair. Rule-breaking
can be part of normal development-individuating and rebelling,
testing the bounds of authority. But it can get out of control.
learn about taking risks and breaking rules from those around us. We
appear to live in a world of risks and rule-breaking. The recent
financial meltdown was due to high-risks and loose-if any-rules.
When the "innocent" pay for the "sins" of the
guilty, is it any wonder there's cynicism-not to mention, a whole
lot of people walking away from their mortgages whether they had to
or chose to.
have you ever done any of the following?:
something, anything from work?
to get out of a jam?
on a test?
unfaithful in a relationship?
some figures on your taxes?
or severely bent some rule to your advantage?
money or valuables and made no sincere effort to find its
someone else's words as your own?
answered "yes" to any one of these questions, don't worry,
you're probably not alone. If you answered "yes" to most
of these questions, you may do well to do a little
soul-searching--especially if you are trying to raise honest kids.
I'm not a
parent myself but I have an 11-year old nephew I see regularly. My
wife and I live in metro-Detroit and have been married over 10
years. Over the years, I've heard from from many adults that there
seems to be a frightful decrease in ethics, civility, and respect
for rules and the law in our culture--especially among the younger
"me/entitlement" generation. One could argue, however,
that the adults (for example, Congress and many CEOs and public
figures) aren't exactly presenting the best role models of integrity
for today's youth.
we saw Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lance Armstrong, and Charlie Sheen
stoop to new lows-not winning, but losing-public respect and
support. However, there does seem to be a worrisome trend. Cheating
typically begins in middle school. Back in 1940, only 20 percent of
college students admitted to cheating during their academic careers.
Today, that number has increased to a range of 75%-98%. We've even
heard of scandals involving teachers cheating on tests for their own
benefit by marking up students' scores.
the following statistics:
10% (30 million) Americans shoplift and about 1/4 are under age
Shulman Center 2011 estimate
of employees steal from work and most do so repeatedly. (2010) U.S. Chamber of
theft (loafing) costs U.S. companies $500 Billion/year in lost
of American high school students say they cheated on a test in
the past year; 21% say they stole from a relative; 80% say they
lied to a parent; 92% say they're satisfied with their ethics
and character. (2011)
Josephine Institute of Ethics
out of ten middle schoolers admit to copying someone else's
homework; two-thirds say they have cheated on exams; 75%-98%
percent of college students surveyed each year admit to
cheating at some time in their academic careers. (2011) NoCheating.org
of Americans said they would be likely to cheat on their taxes.
of employers have fired employees for misuse of e-mails or
Internet on the job. (2007)
American Management Association on Policy Institute
healthy being craves an occasional wildness, a jolt from normality,
a sharpening of the edge of appetite... a brief excursion from his
way of life.-Robert MacIver
attorney and therapist, I've specialized in working with addicted
clients, including many who are chronic risk takers and rule
breakers, for over 20 years. In fact, for a 10-year period of my own
life--from age 15-25--I intermittently shoplifted and stole money or
product from various jobs. I was arrested and prosecuted for
shoplifting twice--at age 21 and 24--before I got into therapy and
began to explore and resolve many of the underlying issues that were
fueling my bad "acting out" behavior. In part, I found out
I had become "addicted to stealing"--to the rush and
danger of it, to the relief I got from venting my pent-up anger and
feelings of stress over having to become the "man of the
house" at age 11 after my parents' divorce. I felt like I was
making life fair by getting something for nothing--it was a
counter-balance to my suffering and sacrifice, my chronic
overgiving. But I always felt conflicted--like I was living a double
life. In essence, my stealing was a "cry for help." But
nobody seemed to be listening or attuned to me.
learned to accept responsibility for my dishonesty, it didn't take a
rocket scientist to figure out I was basically a good kid and my
dishonest behavior evolved from emotional distress and some pretty poor
role modeling from my father who was an alcoholic, had affairs,
routinely didn't pay child support, never apologized for anything,
and bent just about every rule he could.
pay attention! Your kids are watching you... and they're learning about
honesty and dishonesty from you (as well as others). We need to ask
ourselves the following questions:
honest am I and how often do I follow or play by the rules?
my child witnessed my dishonesty and, if so, what have I
said/done about this?
- Do I
hold double-standards for myself or other people or am I
- Am I
physically/emotionally attuned/available to my children or do I
need to improve this?
- Do I
put too much pressure on my kid(s) to get good grades, achieve,
never make mistakes?
my kid(s) get in trouble or make a mistake or get a bad grade,
how do I react?
- Do I
convey unconditional love for my child(ren) or do I convey love
only when they behave?
some common reasons why kids (and adults) may break rules or take
proactively taught value of following rules/being careful/being
2. Had too
many rules/too many cautions against taking risks (rebelled)
Witnessed rule breaking/risk taking by others (poor role-modeling)
4. Had own
boundaries violated/was abused or betrayed
5. Was let
down by authority/saw hypocrisy of authority
pressure--broke rules to fit in and/or taught rules were made to be
Attention deficit/hyperactivity-easily distracted/restless
Narcissistic tendencies--rules don't apply to me
9. Had to
raise self; therefore, little respect for authority
Experience excitement, power, satisfaction from risks/rule-breaking
the dumb kids who cheat, it's the kids with a 4.6 GPA who are under
the pressure of keeping their grades up in order to get into the
best colleges.--South Bay, CA teacher/parent
counseling a client recently--a woman in her 30's, mother of two
young boys--who had been struggling with shoplifting addiction for
about ten years. She shared how she felt horrified to discover her
8-year old son has stolen some rope from a local store owned by a
neighbor-friend. He, apparently, lied when they first confronted him
but he finally told the truth. I asked her how she and her husband
handled it. She said she yelled at her son--mostly out of fear that
he'd develop a habit of stealing like she did--and that her husband
gave him the whooping of his life. Then, she said, they prayed to
God and asked their son to pray to God for forgiveness and marched
their son over to the neighbor-friend's to confess and pay him $5
for the rope.
cover-up is worse than the crime.--Anonymous
I asked my
client her why do you think your son stole the rope? "He said
he stole it because I never buy him anything and always say no when
he asks--which isn't true." I asked her why he might feel this
way then. She said that he's probably just missing his Dad who's
been working overtime the last few months and, also, because she had
been saying "no" more recently since she wasn't just
shoplifting things for her kids. She also stated that her son had a
substantial amount of money in the bank from inheritance and
allowances he had saved and that he didn't like to touch it. We
explored how he may be developing an obsession around saving and not
spending his own money. She also denied that he knew anything about
her history of shoplifting but was open to my suggestion that it's
possible he knew even on an intuitive level that she was engaging in
dishonest or secretive behavior and was acting out as a cry for
attention and reassurance. Then I asked her how she felt about
yelling at her son and about her husband's beating him. "Not
good," she stated plainly.
I'm not a
child-psychologist or expert on raising kids but I believe when
stealing or other dishonest behavior occurs-two strategies don't
tend to work well: "under kill" and "over kill."
I submit that a child's disruptive behavior is an invitation for a
conversation with him or her. Sweeping it under the rug or letting
it slide sends the unspoken message that it's not a big deal. On the
other hand, if some discipline, punishment, or consequences are in
order, it is important to teach why his or her behavior is
inappropriate and not to shame the child into feeling like he or she
is an awful human being, afraid to ever face making a mistake or
displeasing the parent again. Parents, we must also take a hard look
at ourselves to admit if we have directly or indirectly taught our
children about dishonesty through negative example.
also do well to explore and discuss with our children why honesty is
important--beyond what the law or the Bible says. Break it down for
them. For instance, you may share stories from your own life along
the theme that honesty promotes: trust, self-esteem, being given
responsibilities, good relationships, serenity/peace of mind, others
being honest with you, spiritual connectedness, and admiration and
its own reward.--Anonymous
of us can watch over our children 24/7 (though many try!) and guard
or protect them from the negative influences of the world, we can do
what we can do to work on ourselves and our own integrity and,
hopefully, model and discuss it with our kids and, perhaps, others
around us. It may seem that the world is a largely dishonest place
but, we must remember not to give up hope. Also, it is common for
the news to report 9 stories of doom and gloom for every one story
of heroism and positivity. While playing by the rules and being
honest is not necessarily a guarantee that life will work out as we
want it to, it does increase the odds overall and that this will
occur and decreasing the odds of experiencing trouble, chaos and
humiliation. Besides, as they say: "thoughts lead to actions,
actions lead to habits, and habits build character."