Why Marriage May Not Be For You!

After 20 years of marriage, I’m convinced that marriage isn’t for me! Before you jump to conclusions, please read on.

weddingBack in the day, finding a spouse was not a complex proposition. Your folks shortlisted the suitable candidates and chose the one who’s family was most complimentary to theirs. Complex terms like love and personal choice were not part of the equation! But in our very different world, many people struggle with the question of how to locate the One. “What if I end up with someone who makes me miserable?” The result? Commitment phobic people who are mortally afraid of entering marriage because of the misery they fear it might cause them. And subsequently after marriage when the going gets tough, many end up convinced that their unhappiness is because they made a mistake and married the wrong person!

Recently, I read an article by author Seth Adam Smith who made the same discovery I made when I faced the same fears, years ago. His commitment-phobia came to a head as he was planning his engagement to his high school sweetheart and best friend. Was he ready? Was this the right person to marry? Would she make him happy?

wedding 2In his confusion, he decided to confide in his dad about his fears. His dad’s response floored him. Instead of empathizing with him, he told him that he was being totally selfish because marriage was not for him. “You don’t marry to make yourself happy; you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

Seth’s blog post received 2 million views in 36 hours and when I last looked, that had jumped to 24 million. As countercultural as his message was in our culture today, it evidently struck a cord. You can read his original article here.

wedding 3One of the biggest problems in our lives today is caused by our expectation that the people around us are there to make us happy. Life is after all, the pursuit of happiness. Whether it’s our spouse, our friends, our boss, or our workmates, we only want to hang out only with people who contribute to our personal bliss. But this is a selfish extractive approach that is based on not on what I give to others but on what I can get from them. It turns us into net consumers and not net contributors.

So the next time you find yourself wondering if you married the right person, turn the question round and ask ‘how can I be the right person for the person I married?’

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Celebrating Fathers

commercialism2I’m not always sure I know what to do with the different imported holidays that have become fixtures on our calendar. Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day and so on have gained such prominence you’d almost think they were national public holidays! Even Chinese New Year and Halloween have seem to have gained their small (and markedly elite) groups of followers here! All these are clearly indicators of the globalized world we live in. They are also great opportunities for retailers to create demand for goods we don’t really need!

All that said though, I do believe if any of these holidays would be a good candidate for global public holidays, Father’s Day would be it. Celebrated widely on the third Sunday of June, it was first declared a public holiday in the US by president Woodrow Wilson in 1972, 58 years after Mothers day became a public holiday. Clearly, fathers don’t have the same sentimental appeal that mothers do!

In today’s world, men are often seen as the villain – and it is certainly the case that men are often the cause of great pain in the lives of their spouses and children. When I visit our various prisons, I find that most inmates had a poor or no relationship with a father figure. Abusive, passive or absent fathers are the cause of much societal destruction in our nation.

father's loveWhich is all the more reason we must celebrate those men who are doing their best to be good husbands and fathers! It’s much more effective to applaud good deeds and examples than to bile about or simply ignore the bad ones. Because it’s true that you get what you celebrate. Let’s celebrate even those who haven’t done as well for whatever little they did right!

It’s not easy to be a dad in today’s world. Most men have few examples of what good fatherhood should look like. My friend, pastor Simon Mbevi, runs a class called ‘Man Enough’ that teaches men their role in family and society. I’m always amazed at how valuable the experience is to the many who take it.

fatherAnd so here’s to all those fathers out there who are working hard to provide for their children. Here’s to all the baby daddies who at least make an effort to visit their children regularly. Here’s to the single fathers who have chosen to faithfully bring up their children (I know quite a few remarkable ones!) Here’s to those men who are seeking to develop a relationship with their kids even though they didn’t have one with their own fathers. Here’s to those guys who take their kids to church because they want them to grow up with good morals. Here’s to those who are passionate to see their kids have what they didn’t have when they were growing up.

To all those fathers out there, I say to you, Happy Fathers Day!

father's day

Every Child Is Gifted!

pharmacistWhen I was in high school, my heartfelt ambition and desire was to be a pharmacist. I still remember the day when that idea was planted into my mind. My dad was driving me back to boarding school after the holidays and I asked him what career choice could make someone rich as quickly as possible. Absentmindedly, he mentioned that a couple of his richest friends were pharmacists. Unknown to him, he had just set my career direction for the next few years! All my subject choices thereafter were made with this goal in mind, to become a rich pharmacist.

education2How did you end up deciding what to do as a career? Few of us as children had someone thoughtfully guide us in our future career choices. Instead, the choices were made for us through what some family member thought would provide the greatest financial security, or through other random acts of fate. Many of my friends in my university days had little passion for the degree course they were studying. In fact, our street translation of the acronym BA (Bachelor of Arts) was ‘Baba Amenituma’, which means ‘my dad sent me’. This was because many were in school studying subjects that only their parents thought were important!

The unfortunate result of poor or no career guidance is many frustrated young graduates who enter careers they have little passion for or interest in. They dread going to work on Mondays and heave a huge sigh of relief every Friday! Along with those are thousands of others who have not been able to get a job in their area of training and yet are unable to translate their years of learning into solutions for societal problems around which they can build a business. As one wise man put it to me, we are a nation of schooled people who are highly uneducated!

wayne rooneyMany parents are unwitting accomplices in creating this problem. We stress our children to get A’s in their exams creating the impression that children who are not academically gifted are failures in life. And yet every child, including those not academically inclined, has innate talents and strengths that can help them uniquely succeed in life. Wayne Rooney, Juliani and Eric Omondi are great examples that today, you don’t have to become a medical doctor to have great impact on people and culture, and to create wealth in the process!

educationThis last week, 840,000 primary school students across the country sat for their KCPE exams. Many of them did so with fear, based on the knowledge that their final grade will have a significant bearing on the way their lives turn out. I want to challenge all parents, uncles, aunties and teachers reading this. Let’s definitely encourage the candidates to do their best. But even as they do so, let’s affirm and encourage development of their innate God-given talents.

Every child is uniquely gifted to be a success in life. They only need to find someone who believes in them and calls out that gifting!

Parental Advisory

tantrum1It was a moment that saved our life. My then girlfriend and I were visiting a young couple with a rather hyperactive six-year old daughter who was prone to throwing tantrums at a moment’s notice. True to form, just as we were getting into our conversation, the little girl began to raise her voice demanding attention, and the atmosphere began to tense up. But this time, the outcome was completely different from what had come to expect. Her dad looked her in the eye and said a single word calmly and with authority, ‘No!’. To our amazement, with no more incentive beyond that, the little girl immediately calmed down and the rest of the evening was spent pleasantly catching up with her parents.

Welcome to the complex world of parenting today! Many in my generation grew up in traditional homes where children were meant to be seen, not heard. Parents ruled their home with an iron fist and punishment was regularly meted on offenders with belts, slippers and in some cases slaps and even more extreme measures. Open disobedience was unimaginable and parents were feared and obeyed unquestioningly. This model in a better form had actually worked well for generations. But in an urban setting without supportive extended family structures, it broke down and more likely isolated children from their parents. It often became abusive in the hands of parents who were ill-equipped to bring up children in the new setting of the city.

tantrum2Much of today’s parenting practice is a reaction against the negative extremes of traditional parenting. Starting in the 60’s and 70’s, many parents in the West stopped depending on age-old techniques and wisdom to bring up their children but instead began relying on the teachings of modern psychology with its focus on self-esteem. As usual with time, these trends made their way here. But clearly, they too have their shortcomings. Who has not witnessed that child screaming as they demand something from their embarrassed parent in the supermarket aisle? Or had a panic attack when your friends mentioned they want to pass by your house with their not so well behaved children? The modern ideal of busy working parents who delegate almost all of the upbringing of their children to maids and drivers has only served to complicate the matter. The result of modern parenting techniques is pampered, insecure, demanding, out-of-control children with short attention spans and a sense of entitlement.

airplane2I must at this point confess that my inspiration to write this article came out of serious annoyance and sleep deprivation! I was on board a long flight in a Boeing A777 cabin where ninety adults were kept forcefully awake for several hours by two screaming toddlers whose mothers seemed unable to control them. Whereas in the past parents may have tyrannized their children, today, it is the kids who tyrannize adults!

The problem with children is that they don’t come with instructions. And yet how we bring up our children is extremely important not just for the future of the home but that of our nation.This sacred duty has huge, generational consequences and yet few people study or prepare for it. The good book in Proverbs 22:6 encourages us to ‘direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it‘. But how exactly should we do this?

An important part of that answer is understanding the end result. What is the goal of raising our children? If we’re raising them to depend on us, then we are ensuring they will never succeed in life. As one of my friends used to say, children come into the world disorganized and parents have the option of either entering into their disorganization or organizing them and preparing them for an adult world. All parenting must bear in mind that we are equipping our children to be independent, productive citizens who live purposeful, value-based lives that positively impact others.

Back to the moment that saved our lives! What we learnt that day at our friend’s house is that parent’s can learn how to train their children effectively. Ourfamily2 friends shared that they had taken a class that had changed their approach to parenting. The results were so apparent that we decided that when we had our own children, we too would take that class. Several years later, we did, and have never regretted it since. Neither have our kids!

This month at Mavuno Church, Pastors Oscar & Beatrice Muriu of Nairobi Chapel will be sharing secrets they’ve learnt about this critical topic. They will be speaking candidly from their successes and failures about how to prepare our children for modern day realities. Whether you are an actual parent or a potential one in the making, you owe it to yourself to make sure all your friends, colleagues and relatives are there with you. The fate of our homes and nation may well depend on it 🙂