Being Nice is Ignorant


Why do we think it is good to be nice? Honestly, I’ve always been irritated with the excessive compliments about someone being nice. My basic thought has been that being nice is not genuine. I don’t know about you, I would rather have people around me that are genuine.

The Latin word from which nice derives is nescius, which means ignorant. Throughout history, this word’s use has changed dramatically. Look it up. Regardless of the current use, it is my belief that a word’s origin is powerful.

Being nice is fool’s gold.

If my zipper is down, I don’t want you to be nice. I want you to be honest. I want you to care. I want you to be willing to be uncomfortable and tell me. If I am being a jerk and you don’t want to be around me, I don’t want you to be nice, I want you to love me enough to look at me and tell me the truth.

Though I haven’t searched diligently, I don’t recall anywhere in the Scriptures that calls us to be nice. And if it does, I wonder about the interpretation. I know that we are called to love. I know that we are called to be good to others. I know that First Corinthians chapter 13 says that love is kind. But I don’t really associate those things with being nice. Kindness does not imply avoidance of truth.

My instincts about being nice seem to be legitimate. I had never looked into it before, but it irritated me. Now that I understand the origins of the word better, I think my instincts are valid.

I like to think about it this way. I do not intend to be nice. I intend to love. Loving someone may seem nice at times. But if my goal is to be nice, I may not be loving.

If you don’t like this post, don’t be nice, be loving and tell me the truth.

Me Teach Grammar Part Three


Me want to show they how to use the write words.

I am pretty confident that you realize that the above sentence had some incorrect word forms. Reading a sentence like that can really shape how a reader perceives the writer. One of my few skills is grammar. Another is confrontation.

So, I confront individuals and the masses with grammar correction.

Today, I would like to teach just a little about “I” and “me” when used along with a name.

Simply put, you should use “I” when it is the subject, and “me” when it is the object. To make it even more simple, remove the name and see how it sounds.

  • Me and Roger had to pay people to come to our birthday parties. Remove the name Roger and it is clear that “I” should be used instead of “me.” The correct way to write this sentence would be, Roger and I had to pay people to come to our birthday parties. This is in the subjective case, so use “I.”
  • Nobody wants to go to Disney World with Roger and I even though we are paying for the tickets and food, and even paying them a stipend. Many people think this is correct. I even heard someone say that it SOUNDS correct and people think it is right, so we should say it this way. Well, it is NOT correct. Just remove the name Roger and read how it sounds. Here is the correct version…Nobody wants to go to Disney World with Roger and me“. See, that is in the objective case so use “me.”

Here are a few more correct examples. I have placed the name in parenthesis to isolate the “I” and “me.”

  • Because of her, (Amy and) I have really smart and attractive children.
  • Our children are an amazing gift to (Amy and) me.
  • God is so good to (you and) me even though we do not deserve it.
  • (My dad and) I really love Carolyn Sue Spadafora Cox.

This same principle applies to other pronouns. Just remember, when you are using a compound subject or object along with a pronoun, remove the name and you will likely be able to choose the correct pronoun.

You and I can change the world by using correct grammar one sentence at a time.

I Thought I Was Stronger Than Him


Whenever I start thinking too highly of myself, I remember when I got beat up by a Downs Syndrome boy.

To be completely fair to him and me, I was only five. He was twelve. My mom used to take care of some awesome Down Syndrome boys. I loved them. They were fun, funny, loving, and unbelievably strong.

Pretty similar to the way I think even now as a 41 year old, I kind of had the impression at the age of five that I was smarter than my twelve year old pal. I guess I figured that if I was smarter than him, I must be stronger than him. I miscalculated.

I remember innocently picking on him. I mean that. I have a Down Syndrome adopted sister and I pick on her all the time out of love. I miss her more than anyone in my family when I am away. I just love to hear her laugh, so I pick on her and get her giggling. Anyway, I was picking on him. He did not give me any warning. He just grabbed my head and slammed it into the ground.

He was fortunate that I didn’t make one of my judo moves and smash his hand with my head. I could have really hurt him. But I took it easy on him and left his hand on the top of my head as it collided with the ground.

Just kidding. He let loose and taught me a valuable lesson.

Everyone is better than me at something. I can learn from anyone. I should respect everyone. And my opinion of my own intelligence is mostly a severe weakness. It makes me susceptible to attacks. Pride comes before a fall.

I Do Not Fight Naked People


The following experiences had a profound impact on me and I would like to share them with you. However, this story will embarrass my mom. Nothing to do with her. If you read on, you’ll see.

I never want to get in a fight with someone who is either naked or only wearing briefs, known by younger generations as tighty whities. I know this because I saw it happen when I was in sixth grade after PE class. One guy was protected by his Fruit of the Looms (Michael Jordan was not doing Hanes commercials yet, so nobody bought those rags). I just realized something…why have I never considered the meaning of Fruit of the Looms? Have you? I just looked it up. Makes sense.

There really is no way to win a fight with a guy in middle school if you are uncovered. Maybe you can’t at any age, I really don’t want to ponder it or discuss it.

What I am sure of since that day is that I am not going to provoke anyone while I am not wearing clothes. And I have been pretty consistent with that guiding principle. I did get in a verbal fight with a guy in the locker room shower after college basketball practice. This came about because of another guiding principle…I will not stand by quietly while someone pulls a George Costanza in the shared shower. I don’t care where the pipes lead to baby! These drains don’t drain fast enough for me to allow that type of injustice.

(This is the point at which my mother stops reading disappointed and embarrassed).

So later, after another practice, a teammate was biting his toenails off. They were not the proper color for toenails either. We called the guy Pigpen and he was cool with that name. The Urinator (the guy that I argued with earlier) got mad at him and told him to stop. Man, I got fired up. He wanted him to stop chewing his toenails but was willing to pee in the community shower with the slow drains. We went back and forth about the level of wrongness of each action. My position was that if a guy wants to put his nasty toes in his mouth, he can because it does not impact anyone else directly. But relieving yourself in the shower pool was a horrendous injustice to a community.

Community is important. Don’t pee in the shower that other people are using. Don’t fight a naked person or someone wearing tighty whiteys. Those actions are really destructive to the fabric of a community. Eating your toenails is fine though.

This Coach Failed PE in College


I flunked off the basketball team in college and got a D in PE. In an Evangelical Christian college, PE stands for Personal Evangelism.

Flunking off the team humbled me. But it also made me think I was better than everyone else. Humility is so crazy. As soon as you think you are humble you are full of nasty pride. I am humble.

Want to know why I flunked off the team and why I thought that made me better than everyone?

PE required us to memorize verses, learn a sales pitch for the Gospel, and write papers. I was cool with all that. I had an A+ late into the term. But the primary purpose of PE was to personally evangelize. I don’t have time or space to go into all my thoughts about this topic. So, I’ll just say that I chose not to follow through on the cold contact sales pitch. I had chances. But I refused. I always thought it was because I was rebellious, which I am, but I now don’t think that is why I didn’t do it.

After we did our cold contact, we were asked to write a report about this experience. I would say at least 60% of my evangelical classmates wrote the report without presenting the Gospel to anyone. They lied about it. They made up stories. Hilarious isn’t it. I didn’t do the evangelizing, so I didn’t write the paper. That took my grade from an A+ to a D, and subsequently took my GPA to 1.47. All I needed was a 1.5 that semester to stay eligible. (Obviously, I had other academic issues going on at the time also).

If I would have just lied about it, I would have been eligible. So, I am obviously more righteous than my classmates that lied. They are horrible people and I hope they suffer for their inequities. I was willing to sacrifice my own happiness to tell the truth and they sacrificed the truth for a grade.

See what I mean. I am better than them.

I tend to think like that much of the time. And the truth is that it was noble that I didn’t lie about it. But I had other options. I could have actually done the assignment. Interesting concept isn’t it?

But you know, now I look at things differently. I wouldn’t say they were right for being dishonest. However, pride is a much more dangerous vice for me. I say I don’t lie. That really isn’t true. I’m sure I lie. Yet, the bigger issue for me is that I think I am better than other people for various reasons. Such as not lying.

The mixture of humility and pride from that experience has permeated my life. I am grateful for the humbling lesson it provided me (I made the Dean’s list after that and went on to a pretty average college career until graduate school where I finished with a 4.0), while I am simultaneously prideful about my humility. Twisted I know.

Through this and other realizations in my life, I am coming closer to just accepting that I am pretty much a terrible person and that I can stop pretending that I am good, humble, honest, and loving. The funny thing is, when I stop pretending that I am all of those things, I tend to be more of them.

In my weakness He is strong, which makes me think I am strong, which makes me wrong, which makes me weak again, which makes me tired, which makes me need to stop trying so hard, which makes me want to tell others about my journey, which makes me think I am humble, which makes me full of nasty pride.

And after all of this, I just want to watch Seinfeld. Or live in Alaska by myself. All because I didn’t just write the stupid sales report.

I Am Wrong and I Can Prove it


When I was about twelve years old I got in an argument with my buddy Joey about Santa Clause. He believed in him. I didn’t. I was right and I could prove it. So I did. He didn’t change his belief. In fact, the more right I was, the more he was committed to his belief. Fortunately we remained friends and are still great friends to this day. But not all debates about beliefs have such favorable outcomes.

He did eventually come to a different belief. But is was on his terms. Not mine. He believed when he was ready to believe.

I have to be honest about the fact that I absolutely love to argue. I am good at it. I have a quick and logical mind in conversations and I have always been able to win debates. Pretty much anyone who knows me well can confirm my ability. It is a terrible skill to posses. I have made too many people feel little with my words. I have proven myself right and them wrong and I get a lot of energy from that because I am full of pride and arrogance and those emotions want to be fed.

What amazes me is that I somehow have been able to remain in good standing with so many people in spite of my tendency to bully with my self righteousness. The only answer to this perplexing contradiction is that God is able to work around my pride and have His love win. Because the other reality of my life is that I absolutely do want to love God and love people. Love is stronger than my argument.

I am only guessing here, but I imagine Jesus could be better than me at arguing and debating. I bet He could prove anything He wanted to prove. Yet, he pretty much made no effort to prove anything. His answers to debates, arguments, and logical traps was to ask questions and tell stories. That dude is my hero.

Why do I want to be right? Simple answer. Pride. In a weird twist, even this attempt to write about love being good, and and my arguments and pride being bad, I am probably just trying to win an argument, make you think I am smart, and feed my pride. Actually, I am pretty sure that is my motivation. I am wrong and I can prove it.

But you know what is really awesome? God can use my selfish motivation and turn it into something good. So, I press on because I want to.

Proving someone wrong does not change them and it certainly does not make them feel loved. And unless I am remembering incorrectly, Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God and love others. I cannot recall Jesus proving or telling His followers to prove anything, except maybe when he proved the religious leaders to be unloving. He called those jokers out.

They correctly interpreted the law, but were not loving. Jesus seemed to be bothered by them. He is probably bothered by me too when I am right. And if I have picked up anything from the Gospels, it would be that I should not aspire to be like those religious leaders. I’m sort of thinking that Jesus does not need my argument. He wants my heart. He wants my love. He wants me to be love.

Being right is wrong.

Love wins, arguments do not. Prove me wrong.

Grammar Lesson Part Too


The world is in desperate need of grammar correction and I am the man for the job. But children, I want you to understand something very clearly. When you correct someone’s grammar, just remember that nobody likes you.

If you are similar to me, you are well aware of the reality that people may not like you already. So, we can at least leave a legacy. Show others that you recognize things like dangling participles and appositive phrases. Everyone will remember you fondly over the long term and appreciate your genius.

Today’s lesson is pretty simple.

Two, Too, To

Use two as a number. “I used to have two friends. But they didn’t know the past participle of swim. So I corrected them. Now they know.”

Use too two different ways. First, use it to indicate a higher degree of something. “Two friends is too many to keep up with anyway.” The second way to use too is as a synonym of also. “My children think I am annoying too.”

Using to seems simple. But it can be tricky. Use it in a participle phrase or in an infinitive phrase. That should clear it up. Basically, use to anytime you should not use two or too. “I am going to church to ask the pastor if he needs any new friends. I hope he knows how to use two too.”

I Forgot My Flashlight


I was on my back on the wood floor of a three sided shelter ten miles into the woods on the Appalachian Trail in Western North Carolina.
Complete darkness. Alone.

I forgot my flashlight.

As I was staring into the pure emptiness of darkness, I was wondering how I got here. Why was I here? Who was the idiot that brought me to this point?
How was I going to deal with it?

This reality came to me: I got here on my own. I chose to walk miles into the woods alone. I failed to bring a light. I would be here for nearly twelve hours in the dark. Walking out was a bad idea. My only option was to wait and trust in what I knew, which was this shelter.

The shelter gave me a very small amount of comfort or sense of safety, but it was the best I had. So I shifted around so my back was against the wall, my left shoulder on the ground, my eyes staring straight ahead into the dark of the open end of the three sided building. I wanted not to be afraid. I tried not to be. But the noises and the inability to see anything made it nearly impossible to relax.

It was very windy at times. There was a storm in the distance. I’m not really sure why, but I wanted that storm to come. When the wind would die down and be still, I would hear things. Something was walking around the shelter. I could hear shuffling in the gravel. I figured that if the storm came, it might cause the creeper to go back home. Also, if the storm came, it would provide constant noise, which would drown out any mysterious noises. I prayed earnestly for the storm to come.

The storm never came.

When it was windy, I would doze off. The wind was comforting. Silence was the opposite.

This went on all night. In the silence of no wind, I would open my eyes and stare ahead. Listening to this movement around the shelter I would imagine what was out there. My hope was that it was a bear. I figured a bear would keep other things away, like coyotes, raccoon, or some other scavengers that could be on me in a flash. A bear, I figured, had no interest in eating me. I had no food on me. My bear bag was hanging away from the shelter.

Amazing really. I truly did want a bear to be right outside the shelter.

As I gazed into the dark, I pictured a crowd of animals gathered around staring at me. The thought made me want to laugh out loud. But it also made me feel very vulnerable. For a long time I pictured another scene around me and it entertained me. What if there were animals out there whispering to each other while suppressing laughter,
“shhhhh…there’s this…there’s this…hush…there’s this guy in there completely freaked out…be quiet about it, but just move some branches around, shuffle your feet in the gravel…every once in a while brush up against the shelter….hehehehehe…shhhhhhhh…seriously man, hush. let’s have some fun with this guy.”

I just pretended to be invisible.

Several times during the night I had a debate with myself. Should I remain quiet and not draw attention to myself, or should I start yelling and banging things around? Did I want attention or did I want to remain undetected? Was I already detected? Would these creatures run away if they hear me or would they come check me out?

I kept choosing just to be still.

The helplessness was actually comforting. My only option was to wait. My only comfort was three walls, a floor, and a roof.

I smiled.

My decisions put me here. My sense of adventure created a situation that I did not like. But in this situation I grew.

Being in this shelter, alone, in the dark, no light, with unknown creatures lurking…this is my life. My decisions placed me right where I am. I cannot change what got me here. I cannot make the creatures go away. All I can do is trust and wait. Wait for the light.

God spoke to my heart. If I didn’t walk here and find myself here alone, how was I going to hear this message?
Just trust what I know. Rest. Wait for the revelation of the light.

I smiled in the dark. And I waited.

I can’t say that I had no worries or fears as I waited. Yet I had peace. Peace is not the same as comfort. Peace is deep and real and it is for my entire being. Comfort is temporary, based on situations, and it is for my flesh.

That was a long night.

But when the light started to gently break the darkness, my mind connected to the ancient writers who described God as the light. I have never understood the value of light the way I did as I waited in pure darkness. As dark as it once was, and as helpless as I once felt, the light revealed the truth and comforted me.

I wanted out of that darkness. I wanted the light. Yet, in that darkness, I understood the light. At this very moment, I want to go back to that place.

Grammar Lesson Part Won


This is the first in my series on using proper grammar in writing your posts, tweets, blogs, emails, and apology letters. Twitter has different rules. But still, at least don’t use the wrong word if you can help it.

Correcting someone’s grammar is annoying. But I don’t mind being annoying. “Everyone is good at something,” I like to say. Here is an awesome quote.

“Just remember when you are correcting someone’s grammar that nobody likes you.”

Though that quote is probably true, I really want it not to be true because I am well at grammar correction.

My goal here is to teach you a little grammar and for you to think I am awesome.

They’re, there, their.

They’re is what you use for THEY ARE. Like this: “It is super cold, but my ears are warm because they’re covered in old man hair.”

There is what you use for a location. Like this: “I don’t know dad, the last time I saw your Salt ‘n’ Pepa cassette tape it was over there. And put a shirt on! My friends might come over and nobody wants to see your gross back hair!”

Their is what you use to indicate ownership or possession. Like this: “Justin and and Hannah thought they caught a glimpse of their Uncle Roger on the TV during an episode of Finding Bigfoot.”

There you go.

Next in this series: Two, too, to.

Pinterest and Love Can Change You


Some moments in life seem normal but prove to be life changing. Then there are those moments that will clearly impact your life forever. Like when you sign up for Pinterest. There is no turning back from a moment like that. Trust me. Part of you dies. I think it is the man part.

Back in about 2002 I had a moment that redefined my life in my heart and mind. As a high school basketball coach, I have had many ups and downs in relationships. It can be tough at times. If you really work hard and care, you are bound to cross lines and upset people. If you just take it easy and be nice, you probably will not help your players push through barriers in life that hold them back from their purpose and significance. I care. So I risk.

But before this particular moment, it was less of a commitment for me. I essentially took the same approach before this, but after this moment I knew why I did what I did and was committed to the core.

I got a message from my wife that my assistant coach’s father died and one of my players was in a car accident. They were both at the same hospital. I had no other information.

I vividly remember the drive to the hospital. This was my inner dialogue:

Was the player dead? Badly injured? Who else was involved? Was I going to comfort two families in their worst moments? Will I be the first one there? Will there be throngs of people? Who am I for them to need ME to be there?

This is too much. I can’t take this. If I didn’t know these people, I wouldn’t hurt. If I didn’t coach I wouldn’t know these people. I hurt for them. But I don’t like hurting. So, I can take away the responsibility of hurting by not know anyone.

Then it hit me. A word came to me. I believe it was God, but it actually doesn’t matter what I or anyone believes about Him speaking to me or us.

This still small voice in me said, “Now you understand why some people hide. Now you understand why the pain of loss overwhelms people. Now you know why some people want to hide and live as hermits, alone. However, if you do that, you give up the opportunity to know people. And knowing people, loving them, laughing with them, celebrating with them, and simply being with them is worth it. You have to risk the pain of loss if you really want to receive the joy of relationship. Pain is a certainty. People you know will die and this cannot be avoided. Do not look at life as something to hide from. Embrace this reality, pain of loss is not just likely, it is inevitable. But the joy of relationship is greater. Roger, know people. Love people. Pain is not your enemy.”

Calm settled over my soul. Fear dissipated. Love for these friends began to weigh heavier on the scale than emotions. I loved them. Anything else was irrelevant.

The ride felt like a supernatural transport. I floated there. Walking into the hospital is not something I can recall. But I remember the hallway at the hospital. I was ready for anything and only wanted to show my love for these families.

The father of the assistant coach, though in bad condition, had not passed away. The player in the accident was virtually unharmed and already gone.

Those are great moments. A powerful lesson learned with little or no harm.

Since then I have been in pain. I have been to funerals and grieved with others. Yet I have seen the scale tilted heavily on the side of joy and love. Knowing people is worth it.

The deeper love you have, the deeper pain you will have. But love weighs much more than anything else in life. Pile it on that scale. Load it up. Love. Risk. Don’t hold back. Speak love. Be vulnerable. Invite people in.

Maybe I am wrong, but I think pain has a limited capacity. Sure, it can be pretty heavy, but there must be a point at which it is limited. Yet, I am confident that love has no boundaries and can only be limited by our own resistance to it. In this visual analogy, I just want to load up that scale with as much love as possible by giving, receiving, speaking, thinking, singing, dancing, writing, and being love. I cannot eliminate pain from the scale, but I can tilt the scale with love.

Join me?