Woodmont's Staff Blogs

Accepting the Challenge of Personal Growth

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It has been a difficult week for the city of Nashville. The resignation of a mayor is fairly unprecedented. Our city certainly needs prayers and healing. It has been a difficult week for the city of Nashville. The resignation of a mayor is fairly unprecedented. Our city certainly needs prayers and healing. 

Whenever a scandal dominates the news, it becomes convenient and easy to focus on the problems of others. But Lent is actually a time of self-reflection and personal growth, reminiscent of Jesus’ time in the wilderness. In our culture, many are simply not up for the challenge. Why? 

Personal growth is difficult and coming to terms with our own shortcomings and character flaws is always uncomfortable. Jesus asks a timeless question in the Sermon on the Mount: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but fail to recognize the log in your own eye?” 

Jordan Peterson, a well-known Canadian Psychologist who taught at Harvard and now at the University of Toronto, recently published a fascinating new book: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Random House). His fourth rule is this: “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who somebody else is today.”

Sounds simple, but it’s not. We live in a culture of competition and ongoing comparison.  Social media has taken this to new levels, constantly reminding us of what other people have that we do not. When we become preoccupied with the lives of others, we often think of our own as being inadequate. They got a new house. They got a new car. They went on an expensive vacation. Why can’t we do that?

Peterson advises, “Consult your resentment. It’s a revelatory emotion, for all its pathology. It’s part of an evil triad: arrogance, deceit, and resentment. Nothing causes more harm than this underworld Trinity.” 

Of course resentment comes in many forms but it becomes toxic very quickly. Everybody’s life is different. We all see the world through our own lens and experience. Is there inequality, injustice, and a lack of opportunity for many? Yes. That seems obvious. It provides a never ending opportunity to serve others and show compassion. But when we become too obsessed with the lives of others, whether they have more or less, it blinds us to our own shortcomings and blessings. 

Peterson’s sixth rule is also timely: “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.” The trend in our culture is to do the exact opposite: focus on what’s wrong with everybody else to keep us distracted from the difficult task of personal growth and responsibility. 

It also holds true that we point out in other people the very things we dislike about ourselves. That person is materialistic. That person is selfish. That person is irritable. That person is a liar. Peterson reminds us that we all have serious inner work to do. He says, “Start small. Are you working hard on your career, or even your job, or are you letting bitterness and resentment hold you back and drag you down? Have you made peace with your brother? Are you treating your spouse and your children with dignity and respect? Do you have habits that are destroying your health and well-being? Have you said what you need to say to your friends and family members?” 

The difficult work of self-reflection and personal growth is often ignored in a culture that shuns responsibility, criticizes quickly, and blames others for everything. It is a disturbing trend that needs to change and that change begins with a long look into our own heart.   

Posted by Clay Stauffer with

Parkland Shooting Points to Larger Spiritual Problems

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Last Wednesday , a grieving father stood before President Trump at the White House and with anger and rage in his voice asked, “How many children have to be shot in this country before we do something? I’m here today because my daughter has no voice. She was murdered last week, taken from us, shot nine times.” That same night, Senator Marco Rubio walked into a heated town hall gathering in Sunrise, FL where he faced the same question from parents, family, and surviving students of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Rubio was clearly rattled. How could he not be? Talking points were not going to cut it with this group.

One of the major problems in this country is binary thinking, a belief that everything is black and white. You are either for guns or you’re not. You either support the NRA or you don’t. You either believe in the Second Amendment or you don’t. You’re either a conservative or a liberal. If only life were that simple.

There are nuanced positions in life that require reason, courage, compromise, and emotional intelligence. How many innocent children have to die in their classrooms before we try a different approach? No other civilized country in the world has this kind of carnage. I thought something would surely change after Sandy Hook when six-year-olds were shot and killed. It didn’t. I thought something would surely change after Las Vegas. It didn’t.

We like to turn these things into partisan fights which reveals our tribalism and immaturity. Now, let’s be clear. Gun control is not the only issue here. This is all related to larger issues in the culture, spiritual issues, moral issues. There continues to be too much hate, anger, resentment, incivility, loneliness, fear, and rage. These are indicators of a society in spiritual crisis.

Billy Graham said over and over again, “Our nation needs a spiritual reawakening.” He was convinced of it. He spent his entire life traveling the nation and the globe to lead that charge. Graham knew all too well that emptiness and isolation is real for far too many. Change must begin in the heart.

Our purpose is found in loving God and loving each other. A spiritual reawakening takes courage, hope, and a desire to unite and not divide. Families must remain strong. Parents must recognize that their role is essential. Bullying must stop. Education must be funded. Digital devices cannot become substitutes for face to face community. Relationships remain the centerpiece. We must listen to one another, love one another, reach out to those who are hurting, build friendships with strangers, serve those in need, and learn to respect our differences.

Morality matters. Everything is not relative. We must recognize that we are all made in God’s image with intrinsic value and worth. Every human being is precious. But for the sake of these seventeen kids and coaches killed on Valentine’s Day. For the sake of the fifty-eight victims killed on the Las Vegas strip. For the sake of the fifty killed at Pulse night club in Orlando. For the sake of the twenty students and six teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. For the sake of San Bernadino, Columbine, Aurora, Fort Hood, and all the others that we can list off, let’s do something to create a healthier culture and world where this does not happen.

Posted by Clay Stauffer with