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Christian Views of Smartphones

Our Christian Views of Smartphones are now an important topic because of the importance of maintaining our faith but also staying connected in our hyper-connected digital world.

When to allow children a smartphone has become among the most pivotal of parental decisions in the decade since Apple Inc.’s iPhone remade daily habits.The Wall Street Journal Betsy Morris

Smartphones aren’t just a fad like the latest TV show, bell-bottom pants, or the current hot social media platform (Napster, Facetime, AOL).

I read the following:  “One journalist believes that smartphones have, in fact, “revolutionized society.” While extreme, this statement might not be an exaggeration.”

The reason it might be extreme is that “smartphones” have “NOT CAUSED” society to be revolutionized. Other things have caused society to be revolutionized, but Smartphones is a pretty good “handle” for the current revolution going on.

But, where this view might be right on point is that smartphones are the user interface to a hyper-connected digital world.

It is not smartphones, it is this hype-connected digital that has caused society to be revolutionized. And, it is the Domestication of the Electron, in the middle of the 19th Century, that caused our hyper-connected digital world.

We have gone through 4 information ages brought on by 4 distinct tools:

  • Language
  • Writing
  • The printing press
  • The Internet

Each of these distinct technologies revolutionized society.

Our hyper-connected digital world, known as “The Internet,” is just the latest tool to us thrive. Smartphones are simply the face of that world.

The phone used to be a device whose main purpose was communication.

Now, smartphones help us do just about anything: shop, socialize, read a book, do our devotions, take care of finances, date, and maintain our health, to name a few.

They are shaping the world in unexpected ways.

It’s easy to react out of fear of the challenges that smartphones present.

It’s also easy simply to mimic the habits of those around us.

Neither of those responses is healthy. Instead, parents need to recognize the legitimate benefits and dangers of the smartphone, discover the “best practices” around smartphones and teach those “best practices” to the next generation.

 “Digital” natives, immigrants, ignorants, and antagonists

Linguists use the term “native speaker” to describe someone who grew up speaking a particular language and who is fully proficient in that language.

An extension of the term can be applied to our Hyper-Connected Digital World – “Digital Native.”

Continuing this thinking I’ve come up with 4 important terms:

  • Natives – Born into our Digital World and are fluent.
  • Immigrants – Learned the Digital World and are more or less fluent.
  • Ignorants – Don’t know or understand the Digital World
  • Antagonists – Hate the Digitial world and blame it for all the world’s current problems – “Luddites” of today.

Modern teenagers and many young adults grew up in a world where hyper-connectivity is assumed. They’ve never known a world without it. Because of this, they’re considered “digital natives”.

As of June 2019, 81% of adults in the U.S. own a smartphone, and a growing number of people rely on smartphones for accessing the internet.

In 2018, Pew Research Center was reporting that “some 95% of teens now say they have or have access to a smartphone,” and that “45% of teens say they use the Internet “almost constantly.”

Another 2019 study by Common Sense Media found that “Just over half of children in the United States – 53 percent – now own a smartphone by the age of 11.”

Smartphones are Tools like Fire, Hammers, Cars, or Windmills

It’s fair to say that a smartphone is an incredible tool for making our lives better.

However, Smartphones are not the first “tool” to make our lives better and will not be the last.  And Smartphones will not be the first tool to bring unintended negative consequences, and they won’t be the last.

The ability to connect while mobile is a great tool.  Don’t you think General Robert E. Lee would have loved to be connected with his cavalry commander Major Gen. Stuart at the beginning of the Gettysburg Battle to find out where he was and to ask him to return to the battle?

The ability to access information while mobile is a great tool. Don’t you think that Christofer Columbus would have loved to have access to a library while he was landing in a new world?

  • The ability to access a high-quality camera while mobile is a great tool.
  • The ability to access a “calculator” while mobile is a great tool.
  • The ability to access a “translator” while mobile is a great tool.
  • The ability to access “games” while mobile is a great tool.

The abilities the smartphone makes easier or more convenient are too extensive to continue listing.

The main benefits of smartphones have to do with the ease with which we can accomplish tasks.

Smartphones are the natural evolution of “phones.”

Telephones, and before it telegraph, connected individuals without regard to proximity. Many of the same arguments used to bemoan smartphones were also used to bemoan just the telephone.

How can smartphones be bad for us?

But we start to run into trouble when we use our devices in the wrong ways.

Just as Fire can be a good thing, it can also burn the house down if it is not controlled. And even worse when Fire would be used as a weapon.

Tools can be used for good and for evil. It is up to parents to teach their kids how to use all the tools available to them, not just smartphones, but cars, money, drugs, sex, and other tools we use every day to help us thrive.

Parents need to look at all the tools they are teaching their kids to use and simply include smartphones in that list.

People or Things?

The biggest complaint I hear about smartphones is similar to complaints made about the telephone. Specifically that the telephone would cause people to stop writing letters or visiting people.

One recent post said:

Probably the most obvious concern people point out about smartphones is how much we tend to rely on them to the neglect of our relationships.

Another post said :

Most of us have likely experienced friends or family members being distracted by their phones when we’re having a conversation with them. It’s not unusual to go out to eat and see families where the parents and children are all on some kind of device. Because we can be constantly connected, we feel like we should be. We are afraid of missing something if we put our machines away, even for a few minutes.

But when we prioritize our devices over people, we remain relationally immature.

We communicate to those around us that we care more about what’s on our phones than we do about them.

A few years ago, Inc. published an article titled “Why Successful People Never Bring Smartphones Into Meetings.”

Whether in meetings or in social interactions, continually looking at our phones communicates disrespect, disinterest, self-centeredness, and an inability to pay attention for very long.

Even in this digitally motivated, information-oriented world, people still perceive personal contact as highly valuable, perhaps even more than in the past because it is becoming increasingly rare.

Sleep Deprivation and Mental Health

There is evidence indicating that increased screen time might contribute to mental health problems and depression. Psychology professor Jean M. Twenge noticed in her studies that not only has smartphone use recently increased among teenagers, but teen depression and suicide have as well.

Some people are also theorizing that teenage smartphone use is contributing to a decrease in the risky behavior commonly associated with teenage rebellion. For example, as smartphone use has increased, teen drug use has declined. Teens overall are less likely to want the independence that accompanies driving. Why? Because they are more content to conduct their social lives at home through their phones, instead of going out and partying. It’s poor reasoning to observe trends and assume that one is causing another. But it is possible that there are some connections between teen smartphone use, a decrease in risky behavior, and increased loneliness. At the very least, it’s fair to conclude that “new media screen time should be understood as an important modern risk factor for depression and suicide.”

Studies have also linked smartphones to an increased lack of sleep among teens. Screens and LED lighting can make the brain think it’s still daytime and alter its sleep-inducing chemistry. Research indicates that using a device right before trying to fall asleep is the worst possible time to use it. Such a habit is particularly detrimental to teens, who are in a phase of life when they need a lot of rest. Also, more time with screens means less time spent outside on physical activity, which can help to make people feel sleepy at night. If smartphones are indeed making depression worse, that itself will affect how well teens are sleeping and vice versa.

Distracted Driving

The need to always be connected is contributing to teens being more dangerous drivers. Of course, it’s dangerous for anyone to check his smartphone while driving. One study found that 70% of people admitted to doing just that. But teens in particular have expressed a need to check their text messages while driving because of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found in 2015that distracted driving contributes to 60% of moderate-to-severe teen accidents.


Pornography is incredibly easy to access online, and smartphones provide the perfect vehicle for stealthy viewing. PornHub, one of the biggest porn websites online, tracks the means by which people are watching porn on its site (warning: link is not NSFW but still on the PornHub domain). The website has found that mobile devices are one of the most commons ways to view porn. In the year 2019, mobile devices made up 83.7% of all traffic worldwide, with 76.6% of that coming from smartphones. A study done by researchers in the U.K. found that by age 15, 65% of children were likely to have seen pornography online and were as likely to see by it accident (such as through pop-ups) as they were to view it because of deliberately searching for it.

Social media makes it pretty easy to “stumble on” porn. The content in featured Snapchat stories, for example, tends to be sexual in nature. Even on Instagram and Twitter where users can report inappropriate content, people are fairly vulnerable to viewing something they don’t want to see. On Instagram, anyone can tag any type of image with any kind of hashtag. So you could search for something as innocuous as #california and see a sexually graphic image. On Twitter, all that has to happen is for an explicit account to follow you. These kinds of accounts can be reported and blocked, but it’s not that hard to encounter them if no one has caught them yet.

Impact on the “Church”

Whatever cultural changes occur will inevitably affect the Church, and this principle holds true with smartphones.

Throughout history, many Civil and Religious Authorities resisted new information technology. These “authorities” resisted the idea that information could be discovered from all sorts of sources, not just them.

The best example of this is the way the Catholic Church reacted to the Printing press.  It is the best example because it is so well documented.

Many of the American Founding fathers believed that neither the Government nor the Church should prevent new information from being published.

During this time it was easier to control information because most information was stored in books and books could be stored in libraries and the government or church could limit access to the libraries.

But with digital technology anyone anywhere could access information.

Bible apps are very popular because they make it possible to read the Bible wherever your smartphone has internet access.

But a downside of this ability, as one religious leader observes, is that it’s easier for people to use the Bible as though it were something more like Wikipedia than holy Scripture.

It also makes it easier for people to pick and choose what they believe, instead of wrestling with everything the Bible says.

There’s also the possibility that while reading the Bible on our phones, we’ll be distracted by notifications from other apps (can we get an amen?!).

Our tendency to be distracted means that it’s hard for us to focus on pursuing God and practicing spiritual disciplines.

The fact that information is abundant, fragmented, and not always credible makes it more difficult for us to conceive of our lives as part of a bigger story.

And again, our relationships suffer. It’s easier to hide behind technology instead of experiencing an authentic community and discipleship.

So is there hope?

The challenges we’ve mentioned above all relate to our desire for life to be quick and convenient.

We want to accomplish tasks more easily—and that’s great, so long as we have a healthy work-rest balance.

But we also want easy validation, easy community, easy sexual gratification, and easy spirituality.

Life, lived in this way, hurts us and those around us and is ultimately unsustainable.

But rather than running away from the smartphone as if it were the devil himself, we have to learn to put boundaries around it and let it do what it does best, rather than take over our lives.

Then we also need to disciple our children into a healthy relationship with their technology.

How should we regard smartphones?

Sherry Turkle, author and founding director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, once said, “Technology is not good or bad. It’s powerful, and it’s complicated.” And that’s how we tend to think of smartphones.

They’re not inherently bad or good; they’re merely a neutral tool that can be used for either purpose.

In Genesis 1, God commanded the man and woman to cultivate the earth.

Smartphones, like all tools we have created, are just one way humans have cultivated the earth.

That cultivation is part of the way God designed the earth to flourish, so any act of cultivation is part of that “very good” order He created.

But, as we all know, this very good world has been subjected to the curse since Adam and Eve choose to rebel against God’s very good commands.

Thus, cultivation—and therefore all technology—is affected by the curse. So rather than being neutral, smartphones are very good, but cursed.

Recognize that when we misuse our phones, we are trying to fulfill desires that God gave us, just in wrong ways.

God made us to worship Him, to seek His approval and validation. He made us for community. He wants us to live for something beyond ourselves.

He made us to create and to participate in culture. Let’s allow that knowledge to help us be compassionate as we try to disciple our teens to meet those desires in healthier and more biblical ways.

How should that inform my parenting?

We know people who have decided to raise their children in device-free households. While this choice might seem drastic, we think it’s a valid decision for families to make and has a lot of positive aspects to it. But most families will instead try to figure out how to use smartphones wisely. Here are some suggestions for how you can foster good smartphone habits in your families.

Model Good Smartphone Behavior

Anything we want to teach our kids we need to live out ourselves. It might hurt a little, but let’s first take an honest look at our own phone use. Do we have our phones with us constantly? Do we check it all the time, no matter where we are or who is around us? Our kids are more likely to adopt the behavior that we model for them over what we explicitly teach them. We need to behave how we want them to behave.

When to Get Your Child a Smartphone

There is no single, black-and-white answer to the question of when to get a child a smartphone. Besides considering the following list of factors, you’ll also need to take into account what you know about the personalities and integrity of your children.

There is an argument for not letting children have smartphones before age 13 because it’s illegal for sites to collect information from kids younger than that without parental consent. In 1999, the Federal Trade Commission enacted the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was updated effective July 2013. The law states that parental consent is required in order for children under age 13 to provide any personal information to pretty much any online service they might find appealing. Find out more about the COPPA law, including guidance for parents and how to report violators, at this FTC link and at

Other Considerations

The website Protect Young Minds has an excellent resource at the end of the article “5 Reasons Why Social Media Is Not Smart for Middle School Kids.”

Many parents are motivated to give their children phones so they can track their locations or contact them in an emergency. If these are your reasons for potentially getting your child a phone, consider whether a cell phone that is not a smartphone could meet those needs (or perhaps a smartwatch like these for younger kids).

You should also evaluate your child’s current attitude toward your rules. All children will cross parental boundaries at some point. But if your kids already don’t follow your rules without a smartphone, there’s no reason to expect they’ll follow them with a smartphone. And there’s no reason to reward bad behavior, either.

Expect that both you and your kids will feel social pressure to get a phone. They will have friends who have smartphones at young ages, and you might feel like you’re being a bad parent for withholding one. It is difficult to deal with this tension, and it’s valuable to empathize with their desire to fit in like this dad did (paywall). But remember that what matters most is honoring God, having wisdom, protecting them appropriately, and discipling your children well.

How do I prepare my child for a smartphone?

Talk About Its Intended Use

Make sure that from the get-go you establish rules for the phone’s use, as well as who is responsible for it. Some questions to ask your kids are:

  • Why do you want a phone?
  • Who’s going to pay for the phone (the contract, accessories, applications, online purchases, etc.)?
  • What are you going to do if your phone gets lost or breaks?
  • What rules does your school have about phones? Are you willing to follow them?
  • What should I be most/least worried about when it comes to your smartphone use?
  • How are you going to keep yourself accountable for using your phone

Protect Young Minds recommends that you make sure your kids have a good understanding of the dangers of sharing information online, of pornography, and of sexting. Ask questions such as:

  • Are you ok with me seeing your texts, and if not, why not? (Note: if you’re paying for the phone, you should have the freedom to check it at any time.)
  • What kind of information should you never share online?
  • What are the “red flags” that should warn you against communicating with someone online?
  • What’s ok to send in a text message, and what’s not? (Think beyond sexting here. What types of conversations should never happen over text message, even if they’re ok face-to-face?)
  • When does texting become sexting?
  • Besides the legal issues, what could happen as a result of sexting or cyberbullying?
  • How would you respond if you received a sext?
  • What are the best ways to protect yourself online?

To help them use the phone as a tool, rather than a substitute for real relationships, you could ask:

  • How important is your online image to you? What would be signs that you’re too focused on your online image?
  • How could your phone interfere with your friendships? How could it interfere with your family relationships? Are there any ways it could help those relationships?
  • How could your phone interfere with or help your relationship with God?
  • How might your phone get in the way of you learning new skills or hobbies?
  • How are you going to steward your phone well and not let it dominate your life?

Communicate Your Expectations from Day One

Consider having a contract with your teens about how you expect them to use their smartphones. Here are some suggestions for what you might, or might not, include in the contract:

  • Limit phone use at first. As they get older, allow them to earn more and more freedom by proving they can steward their phone well. Set a goal as to when your teens will have full use of their phones, perhaps by their senior years of high school.
  • Don’t demand to know all of your teens’ usernames and passwords. It’s easy to change these, and the request will only bring tension to your relationships.
  • Have a family policy to charge phones outside your bedrooms, both for health reasons and for accountability.
  • If you are paying for your teenagers’ phones, randomly check them to help keep your kids accountable. If you are not paying for the phones, have other, specific guidelines in place for accountability.
  • Keeping in mind that filters have their limits, it’s a good idea to have some filters

or blocking unwanted content and controlling browsing abilities. Some to
consider are Covenant Eyes and OpenDNS. See our list of resources below for further suggestions.

What if my child already has a smartphone?

Start Smartphone Discipleship

Besides praying for them, having ongoing conversations with your teens is probably the most important step you can take. If you get to know them and invest in them spiritually, you will have a better understanding of where their hearts are and a better ability to help them make good decisions. Your teens really do want a close relationship with you, even if they act like they don’t.

Be aware that you have a valuable resource if your teens have older, mature siblings. Siblings will often tell each other information they wouldn’t share with their parents and will often listen to each other over their parents. We’re not advising you to try to pry for information your children have shared with each other in confidence. Rather, recognize the influence older siblings have over younger ones, and do what you can to encourage this influence in a positive way.

Make Prayer Your First Priority

God knows everything that is going on with your kids, and He is faithful and powerful. There are numerous places where the Bible encourages us to seek the Lord in prayer. You cannot control what your kids do or keep all the evils in the world away from them. But you can bring your worries and concerns to the Father, and He will listen. Raising your children is a spiritual battle, and the Lord is on your side.

A Few Other Habits You Could Cultivate

  • Establish regular “screen free” time as a family. Make a habit of doing
    activities together that you all enjoy, and leave the phones at home or in another room.
  • Join your teens online. Is there a messaging app they really like using? Communicate with them on it. Sit next to them while they scroll through their social media platforms. Even when they laugh at your attempts to be hip, they’ll appreciate the effort.
  • Brainstorm ways to use smartphones for good. You could set a goal to
    text at least one person per day with an encouraging message or do a
    smartphone scavenger hunt. Be creative and have fun.

Don’t Be Shocked If They Push Your Boundaries

If you find out your son or daughter has used a smartphone inappropriately, don’t panic. Control your temper, and ask open and honest questions. Do administer consequences, but also use the experience as a teaching moment. We know a mom and dad who did this really well. They found out their teenage son was secretly dating a girl. He had been texting her on his smartphone and bad-mouthing his family. The parents discovered his secret when they randomly checked his phone. They then sat down with him and read the entire history of the conversation aloud. They used the discovery, among other things, as an opportunity to show their son how unhealthy his relationship was and what a healthy relationship would look like.


Teens today need the same assurances as past generations of teens. They need unconditional love and support from their parents. They need healthy friendships. They need to know that their worth comes from God, who wants them to flourish.

Smartphones can help people to connect and can be a wonderful tool for learning and growth. But they are a poor substitute for coping skills, emotional intelligence, worship, self-care, and a good night’s sleep. Use the smartphone to grow your relationships with your teens and to faithfully guide them to godly maturity.

A note on resources

These links are provided as examples of many available helps for parents. We do not endorse any particular resource and encourage parents to research others, as needed.


  • Smartphones are amazing tools that help us do a lot, but they become problematic when we use them as the primary way to relate to others.
  • Our phones make us feel that if we look away for a second, we’ll miss something, thereby causing us to miss what’s happening right in front of us.
  • The blue light from our phones messes with our sleep health, and the things we see on our screens may be contributing to declines in our mental health.
  • Smartphones make pornography extremely easy to access, whether someone seeks it out or not.
  • Because we rarely go anywhere without our phones, we’re often distracted by them, even in church. That distraction can also make it really hard to focus on important things, like our relationships with God or spiritual disciplines.
  • All of these negatives don’t mean we should burn all smartphones from here on out! Rather, it means we need to be more intentional in placing good boundaries on them.
  • It’s important to model the behavior you want your kids to have, especially with phones.
  • To prepare a child for his/her first phone, talk about its intended use and communicate your expectations from day one.
  • Just as in other areas, our children need “smartphone discipleship”!
  • Don’t be shocked if your teens try to push the boundaries at some point.
  • The most important thing you can do is be in constant prayer for your child’s heart and mind and for God to make them wise.

Discussion Questions

  • ?What are the benefits of the smartphone? What do you think is its greatest advantage?
  • ?What do you enjoy most about smartphones? What do you think people in general enjoy most about smartphones?
  • ?How have you seen people use smartphones for good?
  • ?Does your phone make it hard for you to pay attention when people are talking to you? Why is that?
  • ?Do you feel like you need to be checking your phone all the time? What are you afraid is going to happen if you don’t? Are those fears realistic?
  • ?Have you ever been talking to someone who kept checking his or her phone? How did that make you feel? How would you want to be treated in that situation?
  • ?What habits can you build that will help you show people that you value them more than you value your phone?
  • ?Have you noticed that using your phone (or any device, including the TV) right before bedtime makes it harder for you to sleep?
  • ?Has spending time on your phone caused you to spend less time with people or God or on your own self-development?
  • ?Do you ever turn to your phone to avoid loneliness, awkward situations, or conflict with others?
  • ?Do you check your phone while you’re driving? Are there any good reasons for checking your phone while driving?
  • ?Do you think you need to change your habits in this area?
  • ?Have you ever come across sexually graphic content online, particularly while using your smartphone? If so, how can you avoid that happening again?
  • ?How can you help yourself stay accountable for your actions if you see this type of content in the future?
  • ?Do you think your phone helps or inhibits your relationships with God and other Christians?
  • ?Assess your current habits in the areas of prayer, Bible study, being involved with church, fasting, etc. What are ways you can grow in these areas?
  • ?When preparing for their first phone – What are the benefits of smartphones? What do you think are their greatest advantages?
  • ?When preparing for their first phone – What do you think people in general enjoy most about smartphones?
  • ?When preparing for their first phone – How have you seen people use smartphones for good?
  • ?When preparing for their first phone – Why do you want a phone?
  • ?When preparing for their first phone – Who’s going to pay for the phone (the contract, accessories, applications, online purchases, etc.)?
  • ?When preparing for their first phone – What are you going to do if your phone gets lost or breaks?
  • ?When preparing for their first phone – What rules does your school have about phones? Are you willing to follow them?
  • ?When preparing for their first phone – What should I be most/least worried about when it comes to your smartphone?
  • ?When preparing for their first phone – How will you keep yourself accountable for using your phone appropriately?
  • ?For those who already have a phone – Does your phone make it hard for you to pay attention when people are talking to you? Why is that?
  • ?For those who already have a phone – Do you feel like you need to be checking your phone all the time? What are you afraid is going to happen if you don’t? Are those fears realistic?
  • ?For those who already have a phone – What habits can you build that will help you show people that you value them more than you value your phone?
  • ?For those who already have a phone – Have you noticed that using your phone (or any device, including the TV) right before bedtime makes it harder for you to sleep?
  • ?For those who already have a phone – Has spending time on your phone caused you to spend less time with people or God or on your own self-development?
  • ?For those who already have a phone – Do you ever turn to your phone to avoid loneliness, awkward situations, or conflict with others?
  • ?For those who already have a phone – Have you ever come across sexually graphic content online, particularly while using your smartphone? If so, how can you avoid that happening again?
  • ?For those who already have a phone – How can you help yourself stay accountable for your actions if you see this type of content in the future?
  • ?For those who already have a phone – Do you think your phone helps or inhibits your relationships with God and other Christians?
  • ?For those who already have a phone – Assess your current habits in the areas of prayer, Bible study, being involved with church, fasting, etc. What are ways you can grow in these areas?

Smartphones have made parenting harder than ever : TreeHugger(Opens in a new browser tab)

5 Things to Worry About When Using 21st Century Communication Tools(Opens in a new browser tab)

Example of Communication in a Marriage

I found this at

it is a great example of communication in a marriage.


My Husband Treated Me Like A Queen ― And It Made Me Miserable

“I know honorable men everywhere are treating women like sex goddesses and queens, but I’m pretty sure that misses the point.”

Holly Tarry

I’m twisting around to look at my ass in the mirror. My crack stretches up beyond the top of the tiny bikini my husband has just gifted me, and my cheeks peek out from the bottom. I study the pale flesh spilling out of both ends of my new suit and wonder how I could ever wear this to our son’s swim meet or a family vacation.

He grins big and says, “Baby, it’s perfect. You’re hot.”

I feel flattered that my bleavage turns him on ― and then, immediately, anxious that he’s horny and it’s my responsibility to take care of it. A sex clock starts ticking down in my head, knowing he’ll pout if too much time passes before he gets the intimacy he craves.

When we turn in for the night, hours later, there’s a will they/won’t they tension pinning me to the bed. I hope there is some amount of stillness that says “no, thank you” without me having to actually say it. I dread the passive-aggressive pressure far more than I’ve ever dreaded sex. The next day he huffs and puffs in the kitchen. He slams the cabinet and offers only one-word answers.

This was the story of my life with my husband for the first decade of our marriage. The gifts and flattery were part of a cycle that came with unspoken obligations and micro-blaming when I didn’t meet them. It was a theme across our entire relationship, not just with regard to sex.

He made lavish meals and then stared at me while I took my first bite. I found myself over-performing my pleasure with the food to validate him. He’d ask repeatedly if I liked it when my performances failed to convince him. We had an implicit agreement that I was responsible for his emotional state, and it was exhausting me.

Admitting to myself that our dynamic was toxic was the catalyst I needed to push us both into therapy, where we could unpack and challenge all the nonsense our families of origin had modeled.

I was raised in a Southern conservative family with strict gender roles. I was expected to brush my hair, tuck in my shirt and worship the men around me. There was no real sex education at home or at school, but I basically earned a master’s in what-is-expected-of-a-woman. My mother was chronically responsible for my father’s emotional state, in addition to most of the housework and a full-time job.

There were no healthy, mutual partnerships in my husband’s upbringing, either. His father was always in charge, even if he didn’t know what he was talking about, and he brutally dominated the family and any business contacts who crossed his path. As one of four boys, my husband learned to revere female anatomy, but not to understand it.

In therapy, we started to see our conditioning more clearly. We learned we are each responsible for determining and communicating what we want, and for giving the other person the compassion and space to do the same. My husband learned to take everything less personally, and to manage his feelings of rejection with a bit more grace. We still work in therapy to untangle our co-dependent patterns and take responsibility for ourselves.

This new perspective allowed me to step into a leadership role in our life and home. I realized I wanted true, equal partnership, so I started to assert myself and worry less about his response. My husband had to relearn his beliefs about leadership too, and to accept how important it is to also be an enthusiastic follower.

Our new, healthier marriage requires that I confront him regularly and elbow my perspective onto the table for consideration, since we were both raised to prioritize only his. It was during one of these pivotal confrontations when I accidentally sparked the best thing that ever happened to our sex life.

We occasionally read nonfiction books at the same time, book-club style, and one day I confronted him about his recommendations. I complained that he was in an echo chamber of white men who don’t acknowledge patriarchy, white supremacy, or the privilege they receive from those systems. I couldn’t get past the ignorance to receive the lessons of the books, I told him.

And holy shit, he listened.

His next book recommendation was Emily Nagoski’s “Come As You Are,” and I was so excited that he was suggesting a patriarchy-smashing author, I didn’t even mind the book was about sex! Turns out, feeling heard is a bit of a turn-on for me. Who knew?

Nagoski’s book demystifies intimacy and genitalia and makes a very strong case that we all have the same parts, organized in different ways. The author makes this point so often that the reader really can’t help but feel deeply connected to every other body on the planet with each turn of the page. This flattened our confusing hierarchy where I was desired but objectified, and made us equals at last. What a relief to dismantle that pedestal he had me on ― I’d never really felt safe up there.

The next thing he did was plan an entire date around the book. He owned the project of incorporating the information into our life, and his emotional labor felt like love to me in a way my drawer full of slutty bikinis didn’t.

He read and recommended the book, and invited me to a scheduled date on my calendar ― which might not sound sexy, but it feels like steaming hot consent to me. He completed the accompanying worksheets, set up activities, and led the conversation to discover our most mutually pleasing sexual context, as the book recommends.

Nagoski describes “sexual context” as all the things happening around and inside the people having the sexual experience. Each person’s mental state, the relationship dynamics, and little details like the temperature of the room and the scent of a candle all make up the context.

My husband and I had been putting too much pressure on the act and not enough focus on all the other things going on around it. Our cat-and-mouse dynamic was giving me anxiety and making him resentful, so our mental states were not ready for pleasure. As we worked through that big, foundational dynamic with our counselor, we started experimenting with the setting details.

We learned to set up a space heater and make a bed by the fireplace, because I need heat. We went on a date to mix up our own salty, tropical scent so we could be reminded of sexy vacations. We kept the practice of scheduling connection time, so I get a chance to look ahead in my calendar and crave our date nights and their happy endings.

Co-creating a sexual context was fun, and helped remind us that mutual pleasure is the only goal. Our optimal context honors our individual preferences while casting us in an act where we are utterly equal.

I know honorable men everywhere are treating women like sex goddesses and queens, but I’m pretty sure that misses the point. If the goal is a reciprocal, sexy partnership, no one really needs The Royal Treatment. I’m grateful to have learned it was actually standing in the way of what my husband and I really want.

I’m not a queen or a goddess. I’m a person with a body, and so is he. We have so much more pleasure when we acknowledge that.


Skills and Traits We Need to Thrive


Applying the Blockchain Revolution to Higher Education

Applying the Blockchain Revolution to Higher Education

I came across the following post;

I thought it a good addition to the community.

The blockchain provides a rich, secure, and transparent platform on which to create a global network for higher learning. This Internet of value can help to reinvent higher education in a way the Internet of information alone could not.

The blockchain represents nothing less than the second generation of the Internet, and it holds the potential to disrupt money, business, government, and yes, higher education.

The opportunities for innovators in higher education fall into four categories:

  • Identity and Student Records: How we identify students; protect their privacy; measure, record, and credential their accomplishments; and keep these records secure
  • New Pedagogy: How we customize teaching to each student and create new models of learning
  • Costs (Student Debt): How we value and fund education and reward students for the quality of their work
  • The Meta-University: How we design entirely new models of higher education so that former MIT President Chuck Vest’s dream can become a reality1

The blockchain may help us change the relationships among colleges and universities and, in turn, their relationship to society.

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Communication is a Team Sport

Communication is a Team Sport

I was watching the sports news and they showed a great play where the 3rd baseman made a running barehanded catch, threw it to the first baseman, who in turn made a great catch by stretching out and short hopping the ball in the dirt.  And it occurred to me that’s a lot like communication.  Not only does someone have to send a message, but someone has to receive a message.

Communication is a team sport.  And as in any team sport not only do the individual team members have to work on their own skills, they have to work on those skills together.  It’s one thing to be able to throw the ball or catch the ball.  It is another thing to be able to do this in harmony and synchronization with the other players on the team.  Sports is about teamwork.  And Communication is the same.  Communication is a Team Sport!

The challenge with communication is that it’s common for people to be out of synch and in disharmony.  When you go into a store to buy something, the sales clerk is on the store’s team, which means they have a different goal than you, which could cause disharmony.  When you go to the mechanic to get your car fixed, the mechanic is on the repair shop’s team, not your team, which could put you out of synch.  When you call the insurance company to make a claim, the insurance agent is on the insurance company’s team, not your team.  Hopefully, you get my point.

Anyone who’s ever played a team sport, had a child on a team, or coached a team knows that communication can be the “most valuable player” for the team’s success.

Whether it’s coordinating team practices, canceling the game because of inclement weather, or organizing snacks between the team moms, it takes a lot of effort to communicate all the messages that need to be relayed so that everyone stays informed.

    Other Relevant Lessons

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Non Hierarchical Emotional Needs

Non Hierarchical Emotional Needs

Maslow’s grouping of needs is great.

However, from a communication standpoint sometimes needs to be understood from a more equal grouping.

An emotional need is “a craving that, when satisfied, leaves you with a feeling of happiness and contentment, and, when unsatisfied, leaves you with a feeling of unhappiness and frustration.”

The 10 most common emotional needs were identified by “Harley” after interviewing numerous couples.

The following is a list of those top ten needs, along with some examples and explanations of the need. There is no particular order of importance within this list since all that matters is deciding what is important to an individual and to that person’s partner. 

They are listed here in alphabetical order:

  • Admiration/Appreciation:  Receiving compliments, comments about positive traits, appreciation for work done at home  or at a job, avoidance of criticism
  • Affection:  Receiving a hug, a “love you” note, a text greeting, a loving smile, holding hands
  • Companionship in Recreational Activity: Participating together in a sport or hobby that requires more than one person, such as tennis, basketball, or a game of cards
  • Domestic Support: Getting help with cooking meals, washing dishes, doing laundry, house cleaning, child care, pet care
  • Family Commitment: Spending quality time with children, teaching/modeling values, sharing responsibility for children’s well-being
  • Financial Support: Having a partner who provides an income, having a certain standard of living, having a partner who stays within an agreed-upon budget
  • Honesty/ Openness: Willingness to reveal facts about past and present events, as well as hopes and plans for the future
  • Intimate Conversation: Having discussions to inform or ask questions, discussing topics of mutual interest, willingness to listen to each other, giving and receiving undivided attention
  • Physical Attractiveness: Factors such as weight, clothing style, hairstyle, and hygiene
  • Sexual Fulfillment: Having sexual closeness (this usually predates the relationship and is distinct from the need for affection)

Some of us are vaguely aware that we have personal emotional needs that take priority other others. 

For example, one may not have a strong need for financial support but may feel a need for appreciation or admiration. 

Of course, in communication, the question becomes, as always, how to harmonize with the communicators, when those communicators have different needs.

Harley interviewed numerous couples in therapy and asked each person to identify their top five emotional needs. He determined that the several needs listed as most important by one partner were usually the least important for the other partner (Harley, 2001). 

Given this difference in the priority of needs, it is not surprising that many individuals have little understanding of what their partner actually needs from them emotionally. Most of us tend to assume that the other person’s needs are the same as ours.

You may have noted that some of these needs are more often reported by men, while others are more commonly reported by women. Whether or not there are gender differences is really not the relevant issue. The critical point is that all 10 emotional needs are valid and commonly experienced. 

Some of them may not appear to be emotional, but rather physical (sexual fulfillment), or even superficial (physical attractiveness). 

However, given the definition provided earlier, it is easier to acknowledge that all 10 of these stated needs are emotional in nature. When met, they result in happiness, while if unmet, they can lead to unhappiness and frustration.

In communication, you need to make judgments about which needs are more important for someone at that time. 

Of course, circumstances change, and needs may change. For example, the need for domestic support, family commitment, and financial support may all increase in importance when children become part of the family.

Each person is faced with their own determination of what they can or cannot do for the other without sacrificing their own well-being. 

Those decisions are critical. The value of Harley’s description of needs is in the understanding and the empathy that it adds to the relationship. Each of us wants to know that we are important enough to our partner that they will at least accept our needs as valid and make efforts to meet them.

Willard F. (2001). His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, Fifteenth Anniversary Edition. Revell Publishing.