Success With Values

My first guest post is written by my good friend, Andy Dunham.  Andy is a friend from my undergrad days whom I respect greatly. He is incredibly smart and incredibly funny…a fabulous combination for a friend! If you like what you read and want more, he writes with two other college friends at Enjoy!


I joined the world’s noblest fraternity earlier this year. After many, many hours of labor ended in a c-section, my wife and I finally got to meet our firstborn son on September 18. Several thoughts rushed to my tired yet jubilant mind as I held our baby:
  • How did a homely man such as myself get blessed with such a beautiful child?
  • Good grief, his hands are huge! He’s probably going to be taller than me one day!
  • How is it possible to love someone this much when you just met them?
These are pretty common sentiments for most new fathers. I guess I should have had some concerns about paying for college, etc., but that stuff will work itself out. Mostly, I was just overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.
There is another question that came to me then and continues to nag at, if not haunt, me now. That is, what sort of man will I teach my son to be?
I can show you more pictures! Really! Just ask!
There are certain things that we all try to teach our children: Play fair. Tell the truth. Try your best. Share. Don’t throw a fit! Don’t hit your brother! Don’t eat that! Yes, you have to eat that! These are the same things most of us were taught growing up. They make sense. If lived out, they create a happy home and a harmonious society.
Robert Fulghum explored some of these principles in his book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Here’s Fulghum’s list if you’re interested:
  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.
Sadly, Fulghum’s book has no rules about eating paste.
Pretty good list. Of course, Fulghum’s point is that these rules don’t just work for kindergartners but are for lifelong use. They are just as true and useful for a fifty year old as they are for a five year old.
I believe that. I try my best to live by these or similar principles. I mean, I’m not so good with the cookies and the naps, but I try to be a decent, fair person. Of course, I would add some things to the list: Love your neighbor, esteem others more highly than yourself, meditate on what is praiseworthy. But generally, sure, these are good principles to live by.
But, I have to admit, sometimes I get discouraged. Sometimes you look around, and it seems like the road to success is paved with selfishness and shady dealing, and people who adhere to the “kindergarten” principles are just fools:
  • I work as a trial attorney, and there is often a sense that you are not truly advocating for your client unless you are “pushing the envelope” through gamesmanship or other means: intimidating a witness, arguing passionately for a position you know not to be credible, being downright dishonest as a part of negotiations. Can a nice person be an effective litigator, or must we cede the field to the rude and unethical?
  • I need hardly comment on our political system, but the recent election reinforced how nauseating the process can be. I trust and hope that many (most?) of our elected officials began their political careers with a true desire for public service, but it seems that the current climate will allow nothing but rabid adherence to party lines, the public good be damned.
  • I had a client not long ago who told me that his hero was Donald Trump. Donald Trump?! The same petulant gasbag who I see on TV that would set his ridiculous hair on fire to get attention? A grown man who throws worse temper tantrums than a four-year old having a sugar crash after eating 25 pixie sticks and who has less sense of public decorum than a Rottweiler taking a dump on a public street? That Donald Trump? That’s what passes as admirable these days?
“You’re fired for not looking at me!”
  • I can’t even escape it when trying to watch a relaxing sporting event. Have you seen a college or NFL football coach recently? Between the joylessness of Nick Saban, the petulance and duplicity of Jim Harbaugh and the completely unhinged rage of most other coaches, it’s truly disturbing to watch. My current (least) favorite is Florida’s Will Muschamp, who looks like an actual psychotic person on the sideline. The picture below, in which Muschamp looks like he’s auditioning for Jack Nicholson’s role in a reboot of The Shining, was from the Florida-Georgia game earlier this year. Meanwhile, the announcers were chuckling about Muschamp’s “intensity” and “leadership” and other such nonsense. Leadership? This is how you treat another human being? By looking like you just snorted bath salts and are going to eat his face? This is what our society values and pays millions of dollars for?
“All work and no play makes Will a complete sociopath.”
So, it can be discouraging, or at least confusing. Is it better to teach my son to be a “man’s man,” to do whatever he must to get his way, to charm those you can, sling mud on those you can’t, and run over the rest to get where you want to go? Can you be a “success” and a decent human being at the same time?
You can. I believe you can, and there are many who have shown the way. You may be familiar with John Wooden, who is one of the most admirable people I’ve ever read about. John Wooden is one of the four or five best basketball coaches of all time, arguably the best ever. He led UCLA to ten national championships, more than twice as many as anyone else in college basketball history. He was also, by all accounts, an extraordinarily kind, thoughtful, and decent person, a man of faith and integrity, and an example to all around him. One story of him I cherish is that he wrote his wife a love letter every week and set aside time to spend with her. And, by the way, this continued for over twenty years after she died, with Wooden visiting her grave and delivering a letter every month. Wooden was truly a success in every sense of the word.
Achieving success with grace and class.
So, as I hold my son and dream of what he will be one day, I hope he will be a far greater man than his own father. I hope he will be a man who is a blessing to others. I hope he is a success, but that he does not have to abandon his values to become one. I know he can. Others have done it before.

The Risk of Glorifying God

“You are a carrier for hemophilia.”

At first, I am relieved. With so much bruising, I had feared something worse.

When I take time to think through all of the ramifications of those words, however, my imagination begins to whirl, hurling rapid-fire images of the worst: whoosh an infant having to have daily injections; whoosh a high school boy learning how to give those injections to himself; whoosh a little boy sitting in the window, wishing that he could join his buddies playing football but having to be careful to avoid internal bleeding if bumped too hard.

In the days that follow, my husband and I agonize, thinking through all possibilities. Do we end our dream of a large family and be content with our two girls? Do we take the risk of having more biological children?

Then I see it.

I have been reading through Philippians regularly, so have read it many times, but this time it pierces my heart like a sword.

“The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4.5-7

Like lightening bolts, certain phrases light up my soul: Do not be anxious. With thanksgiving. The peace of God will guard your heart and mind.


Peace. A peace that guards my heart and mind. IF I give thanks.

For anything? Even for the worst?

I ask God to help me truly think this through.

What is the goal for my family? An easy question. To honor and glorify God.

Would having a child with hemophilia glorify and honor God more than keeping our family as it is now? A tougher question.

Having a child with hemophilia: the way in which we, as a family, handle such an outcome could hugely honor and glorify God. If we can show the world our trust in God and our gratitude to Him in difficult circumstances, if we can show God’s love to the world by the way that we love each other, we will certainly be glorifying God’s name to everyone with whom we come into contact.

Is it possible? Could it be that God is asking us to continue with our dream of a large family even in the face of huge risk?

Yet my heart still rebels. What about the potential child himself? Is this really our choice to make? Is it right for us to make a choice for someone else that could potentially cause his suffering?

And yet…isn’t that what God call us to do as parents? Doesn’t He ask us to make God-honoring choices for our children until they are old enough to choose Him for themselves? Does this apply any less to unborn children than to the children who are already here? After all, God knows them even before they enter my womb.

And who knows? Perhaps this still unconceived child could one day be the one to find the cure for hemophilia. Perhaps this child could one day help hundreds of other suffering hemophiliacs to find rest in the arms of God.

Perhaps I should just rest my weary mind and heart and trust that whatever happens, even if it is what I think is worst, it is really best because God is always good and God is always love, and God is always working to transform the ugly things into beautiful things that bring honor and glory to Himself.