Tag Archives: teaching

Raising a Real World Superhero Part 3: Training Young Men to Respect Women

 Over the last few weeks, you can hardly turn on a news program without coming across an opinion piece or news story about Ray Rice, the professional football player whose career has been ruined after a video surfaced of him punching his fiancee. Having seen the clip, I can’t fathom how anyone can call it anything but reprehensible. As the larger culture debates what sort of action should be taken and whether or not the league acted appropriately, fathers need to take the opportunity to talk with our IMG_2208sons and educate them as to how God calls them to act toward women. In a culture that is increasingly hostile to the dignity of women, treating them as sex objects, humiliating them in pop culture, or glorifying their mistreatment; it is vital that we make our stance clear and stand firm on the matter. Raising a young man into a superhero requires more than just teaching him to carry a football; it involves teaching him to act with integrity toward women, whether that woman is his wife, sister, date, neighbor, or a stranger.

There are all sorts of biblical passages that describe the importance of men protecting women and treating them with a special degree of gentleness. The prophet Malachi offers a strong statement on the subject when he writes:
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
Malachi 2:16
In the ancient world, women who were divorced were put in a difficult situation, IMG_2279as remarriage was difficult and there were limited employment and property ownership rights. This resulted in poverty, indentured servitude, or prostitution as the only options for women who did not have a husband. God’s declaration of anger toward men who do not love and take care of their spouse is no small matter. God expected men to care, protect, and provide for their wives. Further, the act of abandoning her is described as an act of great violence. The message seems clear, violence against your wife isn’t okay. Even more so, husbands are expected to not only to abstain from violence toward wives, God considers not taking care of them as being on par with violence. Men are to treat women with an extra measure of gentleness and protection.

Another powerful verse that is worth considering is found in Peter’s comments on how various groups ought to act. Interestingly, Peter’s list offers special concern to groups who were less powerful and more likely to be oppressed. His instruction to men is sometimes misread:
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7
It’s easy to see the phrase “weaker partner” and assume that it’s a condescending statement. What Peter means here is that women are typically physically smaller and not as physically strong. Peter’s wording refers to loving, considerate, and gentle treatment of the wife. This is based on the reality that the husband is physically capable of hurting his wife. Peter’s direction is for Christian men to be gentle. Peter also points out that women are heirs of eternity, in the same way that men are. This puts women and men on equal footing before God. As such, they are to be treated as equals in all other respects.

A final passage worth considering is from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus specifically directs His followers not to look at women lustfully, because in doing so, he commits adultery in his heart. This passage explicitly teaches that men are to remain sexually pure in their thought lives. However, it is reasonable to read the passage as also teaching that treating women as sex objects is not acceptable.

Raising a young man, one who stands apart as a hero to those around him, requires that he learn to treat women right. It is vital that the fathers persistently talk to their sons about God’s directions for us to treat women gently and with respect. Sons need to be taught that they are supposed to physically protect women, as isclick here their responsibility before God. Treating a woman roughly or violently is totally apart from God’s direction for them. Further, God repeatedly describes Himself as a protector of those who are most exploitable. This is an example Christian men are to emulate. We should not engage in any activity that treats women with less dignity than is afforded to God’s beloved creation. This is foundational for raising a young man to be a real world superhero. Beyond teaching them, fathers must model the behavior in their relationship with their wife and the women around them. Boys learn to be men by watching their fathers and the other strong male figures in their lives. A father must model right behavior to raise a superhero son.
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5 Daddy-Daughter Date Night Ideas

real world linkI take my 3-year old daughter out on dates every couple of weeks. She picks the sort of restaurant we would visit, the activities we engage in, what we have for dessert, and what kind of music we listen to while driving. She dresses up and we spent the evening together. My daughter and I go on dates regularly. We watch movies together, we go for walks, we have tea parties, we talk, and spend time together doing all sorts of other father-daughter activities. She asks me often to take her out and spend time with her because she enjoys it. I enjoy it, but I have another objective. I am teaching her about what a relationship with men ought to look like. I touched on this previously in the first Raising a Real World Superhero article, but it’s important enough that it merits deeper consideration. For starters, it’s scriptural. Proverbs 22:6 offers the best principle for this practice:

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

By teaching my daughter what she ought to look for in a male relationship, she will learn how a man ought to treat her. Spending time modeling relationship is far more effective than simply telling her how a man ought to treat her, because it is training her. The time a father spends with his daughter trains her in the first lessons she will learn about men and what male relationships ought to look like. I want to do the best I can to teach her what loving, attentive, and supportive relationships with a Christlike man ought to look like. I want her to learn that a man ought to cherish her and treat her like a princess, who is a child of God.

In the last 3 years, I have learned, through effort and focus, how to make my daughter feel like the treasure that God sees her as. I am writing to share some of the basic “dates” I go on with my little girl, with the hopes that they will inspire other dads to engage their little girls and teach them how a man of God ought to treat them.

1. Dinner and a day together: 10689867_10152240843956599_4277277737945522172_nWhen Abbey and I go on dates, she gets to pick everything we do. This usually begins with her picking what dinner will be. For some reason, she has decided that Chinese food and eating with sticks is the best thing in the world. A year ago, she loved eating at McDonalds and playing in the play land. I don’t like McDonalds, but I eat where she wants because I want her to know it’s special. We eat and talk. She tells me stories. I ask her questions. She gets my full attention. When given a choice as to what she wants to do after eating out, sometimes she wants to go to the comic book store, or to the book store, or to buy bows at the girl stuff store. She picks and she gets my attention the whole time. Please note that I don’t buy her everything she wants, but she does get my full attention.

IMG_21592. Tea parties: I am not a fan of tea parties, but we do them regularly. Stuffed toys usually attend. There is usually cookies and snacks. We drink tea, eat cookies, pretend, play, and talk. Usually setting up the tea party is as fun for her as having the party. Sometimes I read her stories. Most tea parties last about an hour, and she loves them.

3. Camping: Camping is a bigger production, but is a huge deal to her. She is only 3, so camping isn’t usually as much an outdoor adventure, as it is an opportunity to stay up too late, eat junk food, watch cartoons, look at stars, and sleep in a tent. We sometimes just camp in the yard, while other times we camp in the mountains or parks. It doesn’t matter to her. Camping with dad is an adventure. When her little brother gets older, she won’t get to do this alone anymore. For now, it’s a favorite of hers.

4. Movie Night
: This week, my wife had an evening out withmovie night some gals from church. This left me home alone with the kids. We rented a cartoon movie and I let her pick dinner. She decided we would eat popcorn for dinner, drink soda, and eat cookie dough for dessert. We talked about the cartoon, she hid under the blanket at scary parts, and she told me she loved the whole evening.

5. The Park: An afternoon at the park is one of her favorite things to do. I push her on the swings, I talk to her, we chase each other around, and she gets my full attention for the duration of our time there. Sometimes we go for ice cream or get fruit snacks at the grocery store. Sometimes we go for walks. The important thing is spending time.

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Why They Can’t Stop: How Addiction Works

It’s hard to watch a loved one self destruct, to watch them repeatedly engage in behaviors that are clearly destroying them. Addiction is perplexing to watch from the outside because the addict time and again acts in ways that are obviously destructive to everyone else who is watching, but for some reason the addict just won’t stop. It can be particularly difficult to understand why they are unable to overcome the problem behavior because tremendous pain and a sense of betrayal are often inflicted when a loved one doesn’t stop getting drunk or high. That pain makes dealing with the problem even more difficult because it tends to make careful consideration difficult. It’s hard to think through a situation that you just want to be over because it is destroying the family, because, as an addict, they cannot stop on their own power. It seems obvious that the addict just needs to stop, but the situation is seldom as simple as that. One of the first steps to coming to grips with the situation is understanding the mechanism of addiction and why the addict engages in self-destructive behavior.
In the early 20th century, Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov’s famous experiment demonstrated the principle of classical conditioning. He did this by ringing a bell every time he fed a group of dogs. The dogs would salivate in response to the bell as they anticipated their meal. After thoroughly establishing the pattern, Pavlov began to ring the bell without providing food. The dogs salivated anyaddictionway, which demonstrates that their brains learned to associate the ringing of bells with eating even when there was no food present. Human brains have the same tendency. We learn to associate stimuli with certain feelings or having needs met. As the behavior is learned, they develop ingrained patterns, which become become compulsive. Understanding classical conditioning is an important first step to grasping how addiction works in human beings.
A person doesn’t become an addict by simply gambling too much or getting drunk frequently. Addiction takes place when the stimulus response mechanism in the brain gets out of control and begins to dominate the addict’s life. This often happens to people who lack healthy coping skills. Because they don’t have the ability to deal with stressful situations, they turn to escapes as a way of dealing with stress. Perhaps they have an unpleasant home life, which they aren’t prepared to cope with properly. They do not want to feel bad, but don’t know how to feel better through healthy means. Instead, they turn to alcohol, drugs, pornography, or some other means of escaping the situation. As time goes on, their brains begin to connect unpleasant situations with intoxication and feeling better. Every time something bad happens, they “use” (engage in addiction). As the pattern becomes increasingly ingrained, the individual becomes like Pavlov’s dogs. The bell rings (unpleasant situation happens) and the dog salivates (they respond by using in order to feel better). This pattern of stimulus response reaches the point of being compulsive as the addict gets deeper into their addiction. They literally lose control and cannot restrain their behavior. I have spoken to many addicts who genuinely want tcycle.001o quit, but when they get into certain situations their stimulus-response takes over and they become like passengers in their own bodies, watching passively as they act out their learned behavior. This is because the mechanism of addiction happens in the “old brain”, where things like fight or flight take place. This is the portion of the brain that takes over when thought isn’t the best response to a situation, like with fight or flight responses. It has the ability to take over the body and force the person to behave in predetermined ways. This is the same sort of thing that soldiers train to achieve. When combat happens, thinking turns off and the training kicks in. Addicts are similar, except that their training has been unhealthy and is now destructive.
What makes this addictive pattern really problematic is that as the addict avoids dealing with negative experiences, their brains store up all of the garbage they haven’t processed through. Whenever they sober up, the old feelings begin to find their way back to the front of their feelings/thinking. This makes the addict miserable, so they respond like Pavlov’s dog responds to the ringing bell, by getting intoxicated. Addicts that have advanced in their sickness,are often miserable all the time. Withdrawal also perpetuates the situation. When the body becomes dependent on a chemical, detoxification can be unpleasant, which prompts the stimulus-response cycle to kick in. What’s worse is that even if they begin to deal with their pain and get healthy, the portion of the brain that looks for the enjoyment of intoxication begins to manufacture misery in order to get back to intoxication. This happens in the form of inexplicable depression or anxiety, which is often an overreaction to really minor issues.
Another major component of addiction that makes recovery difficult involves thinking. As an addiction becomes ingrained, the addict’s thinking patterns develop mechanisms to protect the addictive behavior. The most prominent of these thinking tendencies is denial. Denial is when an individual cannot see how bad things are getting. An addict in denial can lose major relationships, have trouble with the law, become physically ill, and never blame it on their using. Most often, problems are either blamed on others or minimized so they’re perceived as not a big deal. Otherwise, problems are just ignored or worked around. An individual in denial cannot recognize the seriousness of their situation, because denial is a mental block preventing them from seeing how bad things are. It exists to keep the addict using. There are other thinking patterns that protect the addiction, but denial is by far the most serious and the most difficult to overcome. An addict in denial can have their whole life in flames and not be able to see that it is caused by their using. It is what allows an addict to destroy themselves without seeking help.
Diagnosing addiction requires the presence of three or more of the following criteria:
  • Developing a tolerance, which results in the addict using more or stronger substances in order to get the same effect. For an alcoholic, this is drinking stronger alcohol -or more of it- in order to get drunk. For a porn addict, this is using porn or looking at harder porn in order to achieve the same effect that less would achieve.
  • Withdrawal symptoms are experienced when the drug is not available. Withdrawal can be physical illness, headaches, shaking, sweats, or other physiological changes. It can also be psychological with the addict becoming irritable, depressed, anxious, or restless.
  • Continued use, despite harm that comes from using. Harm can be financial, damaged relationships, health problems, etc. An addict who loses his loved ones, home, and employment will continue to use even though his addiction is destroying his life.
  • Using the drug in larger amounts or for longer periods than they intended. An addict loses control once they start using. They generally have no idea how much or for how long using episodes will last. A pornography addict will set out to look for only a few minutes, only to look up and discover that they have been looking at porn for hours or more.
  • Attempts to control use that have failed. As the behavior gets out of control, an addict may decide that they need to cut back. Attempts may have limited success, but ultimately fail because they are not truly in control of their behavior.
  • Significant time spent thinking about using or seeking the drug takes place when an addict spends huge amounts of time seeking their drug or thinking about nothing else.
  • Reduced involvement in family, work, or social obligations happens because these activities get in the way of using behaviors. They may avoid family because they do not want to be condemned for using or because they do not wish to share. They experience difficulty fulfilling work obligations because they cannot stop their using behavior.
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Faith Like a Broken Record Player

I am an avid record collector. I own a couple of record players, broken record logobut do not have a decent player for my stereo in the living room. Last week I was volunteering at a community rummage sale and I came across an older, but fairly high end turntable. I was giddy as a school kid when I plugged it in and hit the play button. My heart sank when the turntable remained still. I quickly dismantled it and discovered the belt was broken. Further investigation revealed that the motor worked. The record player worked, but the turntable didn’t spin. No matter how well the motor ran, it didn’t matter, because the power didn’t transfer to meaningful motion. This record player sat on my desk all week while I was studying the book of James for last Sunday’s message. I believe that this is why that broken record player came to mind when I read James 2:14-17.
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
If I believe in God and believe that Jesus died for my sins, but do not live as though it is true, then I am not all that different from the record player sitting on my desk. Part of me is working right, but there is no transmission of that belief into lifestyle. Mere belief isn’t saving faith. James explains that belief is good, but even the demons believe and they do not have faith. Faith is belief that shapes how we live our lives. In the example that James offers, a member of the body of Christ is in need. This is a person that Christ bled and died for. If we see them and our possessions are of greater value to us than our brother in need, then our worldview isn’t adequately shaped by our beliefs. If we aren’t moved to compassion by our family member’s need, then our faith may be little more than belief.
This passage has fueled centuries of debate as to whether or not we must work in order to be saved. The assumption that we need to work to be saved misses the point. We are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus. Faith is more than belief. It is a life commitment. Faith is belief with a working drive belt, that brings the music of God’s kingdom to the world through the actions and words of his people.
Sermon LinkWe are not to look at our own actions and try to guess if we are saved. Rather, we are to look at the world around us through the lens of the teachings and grace of Jesus. It shapes our perception of our possessions, the temporary nature of this life, what is really of value, what our life goals are, and every other part of who we are. We begin to see the world as redeemed possessions of the almighty God and as brothers of Christ. This new view of the world will necessarily change our behavior. Saving faith acts because it is alive. Dead faith is mere intellectual acknowledgment.
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Raising a Real World Superhero Part 2: Introducing Your Children to God

“Daddy can fix anything!” This is the new phrase my daughter has learned, which she utters as a source of self-comfort on a near daily basis. Whenever a toy breaks, the car isn’t running right, or anything else goes wrong, she confidently proclaims: “It’s okay. Daddy can fix it.” T1381739_10151682499551835_840408289_nhis is just one of several mantras she recites when facing difficult situations. Another one that is fairly common is: “Daddy will keep me safe.” I typically hear this comment when she has bad dreams or is afraid of the dark. She believes, with a kind of faith that children are amazingly capable of, that her dad can do anything. This is not unusual. Most children grow to believe that their dads are a sort of superhero. As they grow older and wiser, they come to recognize that dad isn’t a sort of superman, but for now we are both enjoying this phase of her relational development. She feels comfort at the reassurance that I can take care of her. I love having my child look at me as a hero of sorts, and hope to live up to that perception as much as possible. Even more so, I hope to raise kids who my grandkids can look at with awe as children. Raising children who can be superheroes to their own children is a product of intentional effort and an awareness of a basic reality regarding God’s design for the family.
There is an important concept that sits behind this phenomena of children viewing their parents as almost superhuman. It is the same idea that is found in the 10 Commandments and God’s design for the family and our world. The commandments are divided into 2 tables. The first “half” of the law relates to man’s interactions with God. These laws are intended to offer guidance for people in their relationship with God. It is how fallen, limited creatures are to see and interact with the holy, eternal Creator. The second table of the law pertains to man’s interaction with other men. So, the first table relates to interacting with God, IMG_0253while the second deals with interacting with men. The first law in each table is important and offers a glimpse into God’s design for the world. The first law is: Do not have any other gods. Basically, the command is to honor God. The first law in the second table is somewhat similar: Honor your mother and father. The two laws strongly parallel in concept because parents have a special role in the lives of their children. Specifically, parents stand in the place of God in the lives of their children for the first several years until children reach the point of being able to understand God. Perhaps the English novelist, William Thackeray, put it best when he wrote: “Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of little children.” Parents shoulder an enormous responsibility by standing in the position they stand in, because they stand as representatives of God. This is a bit of a double-edged sword. A strong, loving parent can provide their child with an amazing first impression of God’s identity. The downside is that an absent, abusive, or deeply flawed parent can give children an inaccurate perspective on who God is. This is most easily seen with abusive or absent fathers, whose children often grow up with a sense of God being distant or perpetually angry and out to get them. Mind you, this is not a hard and fast rule for all people. Rather, it is an observable trend.
Raising a real world superhero is greatly enhanced by an awareness of this dynamic, because a child’s perception of God shapes their understanding of eternal matters. This is particularly the case when we consider the sorts of things God calls His people to be. In the Old Testament, we see God declaring himself to be the protector of the innocent and the helpless. Through His laws and the prophets, God directs His people to care for the poor, outsiders, and the disenfranchised. In the New Testament, we encounter Jesus, the Son of God, who gives us a glimpse of God’s passion, love, mercy, and grace. Further, we are directed to imitate Jesus in our lives and relationships. Inspiring a child on the road to revering God, obeying Him, and imitating His Son is a basic step in the process of raising a real world superhero. In addition, helping them to grow a healthy perception of God’s personality is vital because it enables them to imitate Him correctly, with an eye on the God of holiness, mercy, and grace; rather than an imagined version of God who is petty, overly concerned with our legalistic observances, or worse-still distant and heartless. The Old Testament features a chilling warning that God visits:
…the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments
Exodus 20:5-6
This may seem harsh, but is actually just a reflection of this concept. A parent who poorly reflects the character of God to their children will in turn raise kids who learn to poorlyclick here reflect His character, and so forth. The consequences of the actions of a parent on their children and grandchildren is an echo of the initial transgression. On the other hand, fathers who raise children who imitate the love, mercy, and just nature of God, will in turn raise grandchildren who do likewise. Ultimately, it boils down to one principle: if we are to raise kids who stand tall as heroes, we must do our best to present to them a heroic personage that is worth following and imitating themselves.
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Raising a Real World Superhero Part 1: Modeling the Life You Want them to Live

My daughter loves superheroes, not unlike 3/4 of the other small children in the country. She loves watching Batman cartoons, along with the Avengers, Superman, Wonder Woman, and almost anyone else who wears a cape and fights bad guys. As a dad, I love that she is excited by characters that fight against injustice and stand for right. I want my kids to embody these qualities in their lives.IMG_0277 I pray that they become people of integrity – who courageously live their lives based on their beliefs. I want my son and daughter to do great things and live their lives in ways that inspire others to greatness. Truth be told, I doubt my kids will ever fight villains, but as we grow up and put more simplified versions of the world away, we come to recognize that real heroes often do far more ordinary things – everyday – for the duration of their lives.
I have spoken to people who indicate that they would selflessly do great things if the opportunity arose, but act selfishly in many other aspects of life. They say things like: I would give money to the poor – if I had more money than I could ever spend. The basic gist being that heroic action would be on the agenda if the opportunity ever arises. I have conversed with countless individuals in orange jumpsuits living behind locked doors who swear that they would sacrifice their lives for their families. My response has always been the same: “You say you would give your life for your family, but you refuse to live the same life for them.” Many of them sadly acknowledge that they had wound up incarcerated because they were busy doing what they considered to be important, while leaving family to fend for themselves. A proper hero in a family doesn’t engage in one-time heroic acts. Rather, he is a father who leads spiritually, works hard every day, acts lovingly toward his wife, and spends time talking to, teaching, and loving his children. This manner of hero is far more important because he is making the next generation of heroes. There is a basic truth about children that most parents recognize, but is often not regarded with the appropriate gravity. That truth is that children learn a great deal through observation and imitation. This is most obvious when you look at children and see their parents in facial expressions or mannerisms. They learn these things by mirroring their parents. Children learn values, beliefs, communication patterns, behavioral tendencies, etc. by observing and imitating those they spend the most time with. This is particularly important of the father, who plays a unique and nearly irreplaceable role in the family. Raising a superhero doesn’t start with some crazy trick or technique. Rather, it begins with a great deal of mundane, repetitive modeling of behaviors that are in keeping with the core values that constitute a hero. There are several areas where this is particularly important.
  1. Spirituality- The father’s participation and leadership in family spiritual life is vital because of the father’s enormous influence on the family. Consistent religious practice that is discussed openly with the family is central to raising children that live out those beliefs. This component of life is particularly important because religious beliefs serve as a philosophical foundation for all other values, beliefs, and practices. Further, it is the aspect of life that is concerned with eternal, transcendent matters. I know many men who contend that they hold deep religious convictions in their hearts and minds, but spend little time demonstrating them outwardly or intentionally teaching their children to do so. This results in children who never learn the value or priority of concern for eternal issues.abbey
  2. Relationally- One of the surest ways to encourage healthy relationships in your children’s future is by engaging in healthy, emotionally-open relationships with them. Daughters learn how to be loved through their connection to their dads. A young lady who grows up thirsting for her father’s affection, but never having the need properly met, will seek to meet that need in their future romantic relationships. The problem is that it is impossible for a husband to emotionally replace a father. This can also result in a daughter pursuing relationships with emotionally distant men, then trying to win their love. For young men, lack of emotional connection with and approval from their father can often result in them seeking to demonstrate their manhood through other means, like achieving success in life, attempts at manliness through physical dominance, etc. It is a vacuum that can alter a young man’s perception of their own manhood for life.
  3. Communication- The style of communication employed by the adults in a household will shape the ways their children will communicate. Direct, firm, honest, loving communication will tend to result in children who grow up to communicate in the same manner. Families who communicate in cutting or sarcastic remarks will produce adults who communicate the same way. Families who respond to any slight or offense with yelling or volatile emotional displays will train children to do likewise. Many couples do not consider what they are training their kids to do when they argue. Raising a child with healthy communication skills is largely a matter of modeling healthy communication.
  4. Values- A father who models a strong value system for their children through intentionally living out his work ethic, will tend to result in kids who take pride in their work. A father who puts effort forth to teach his children to stand up for the helpless and does so in his daily activity, will raise children who believe that protecting the helpless is important. Parents who read, and read to their children, will tend to raise kids who read. Kids learn the values that their parents model and teach.
  5. Time- The master key to the whole effort of raising a real world hero is time spent. The positive influence a parent wields in their child’s life is directly proportional to the time they spend investing in them. Parents, and fathers in particular, who spend time playing, talking, praying, eating, or engaged in any other activity with their kids will more effectively shape their lives.
These are just a few of the many areas it is important to focus effort on in the pursuit of positively impacting the lives of your children. The important concept to understand, which underlies every aspect of this list, is that you have to be the person you want your children to strive to become.
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