A dirty little secret that is destroying the family, faith, and our country.


It hit me about five years ago while teaching a class of young adults.  Many were graduate students who were brilliant and they knew it.  Thanks to smart phones they could fact check me on the spot!  Was my quote accurate and in context?  They could find out in seconds.  They were quick to “well actually…” me.  Have you ever met someone like that?  We are raising an army of them so if you haven’t yet, you will.

While I believe strongly in the value of education, something is missing.  In a sea of prolific, young, know-it-all Googlers taking the world by storm, something is truly missing. 

While teaching a class with the aforementioned young adults, it hit me how lost they were. Not lost like I don’t know WHAT the answer is or WHERE I am, lost like I don’t know WHO I am.  That’s when I realized my technical school educated, South Dakota born, Harley riding Grandpa had something these young adults are sailing further and further away from.  Grandpa spent a lifetime honing who he was all while we obsess over what we know.  It appears a little knowledge used wisely is BETTER than a lot of knowledge that just puffs up.  A marksman with a bow is BETTER than a toddler with a machine gun.

Let me clarify.  Plato and Jesus called it dikaiosune (Greek) though I think it was poorly translated “justice” in the Republic.  Aristotle called it areté.  Homer used this to describe the nobility of his heroes in the Iliad and Odyssey.  Dallas Willard defines it like this, “What that is about a person that makes them right or good.” 

Here is what bothers me.  We are raising up a generation of people who have access to a lot of information, but we are neglecting to teach them what it means to be “good.”  In fact we avoid it because we don’t know what “good living” is anymore!  Even our education system has pulled away from requiring students to actually “get” what they are learning.

Think about it.  We live in a world where someone can get a Masters in Business Administration and not actually have the capacity to lead at all, or an unstable person who becomes a Psychologist, or even a crooked lawyer.  How does this happen you may ask?

Because we are teaching our kids that all they have to do is remember facts for a test and we neglect to develop WHO they are.

So here is the dirty little secret that is killing us:  A person can be factually correct yet be a complete mess of a human, a “know-it-all” who has no wisdom, a toddler with a machine gun of facts (often unverified) doing more harm and creating infinite confusion. 

I get it!  I am guilty of this too.  Everyone in the family I grew up in will have at least a masters degree by this summer.  Yet my Grandpa who may not have had his historical facts exactly right was working on something else his whole life.  His dikaiosune, his arête—he was a good man.  He was a great man!  He was noble, reliable, and of incredible character.  He worked really hard to live like Christ.  Just maybe what I learned while deer hunting with Grandpa was of equal or maybe even greater value than what I learned sitting in a classroom. 

Here is my prediction, if we don’t bring this “noble character” back it doesn’t matter how much more information we discover or share…. we are done.

24 thoughts on “A dirty little secret that is destroying the family, faith, and our country.

  1. Whew Mike funny how you came to this…make similar statements probably 20 years ago in my master thesis….and I could not more whole heartily agree.

    1. Spread the word! Have open conversations with people. Help them understand it isn’t just what we know it’s how we use our knowledge in our daily life that matters. This is especially true in Christianity. Living for Christ and knowing about him are two very different things.

  2. Good Stuff Mike! I love your analogy about the marksman and the toddler. 🙂 And it is so true, even in the church. There are many theological school graduates who know all the answers, can tell all the stories, but don’t know how to live what they know. Because of that, their words become very shallow. I think that’s why I’ve come to love the quote by St. Francis of Assisi so much…”Preach the Gospel always. Use words if necessary.” Your grandpa sounds like my kind of guy…

  3. Mike, your comment, “Even our education system has pulled away from requiring students to actually “get” what they are learning.” It reminds me so much of one of my father’s often heard comments about America’s educational system decline; “We’re teaching them more and they’re learning less.” And this was in the 70’s!

  4. As my kids are growing, I occasionally hear grumbling about school and homework with comments like, “What’s the point? I’m never going to use this in real life.” As parents, it’s so important to make a real effort to take advantage of “teachable moments” outside of the school setting to point out practical application of knowledge. The same holds true for Biblical knowledge and truth. We teach Bible stories and memorize verses as an important foundation for faith, but if we don’t apply it to life, what’s the point?
    As someone who pastors children, one of the things I love about 1 Timothy 4:12 is that it calls upon youth to set an example of Godly character. We extend grace to the young, but they are not off the hook. Their witness is powerful! So while I often think of the generation that has gone before me as an example of noble character, I know I have been humbled and challenged by examples of noble character from the young as well.
    Here’s a link to a worship song to help kids memorize 1 Timothy 4:12 verse.

    Create a great memory of “family church” worshiping at home with your family. The snow is beautiful!
    Ms. Amy

  5. As teachers in the educational system Katie and I loved this post. We often feel the strain from the constant barrage of testing. Education can take on a type of “gerbil running in a wheel” feel. It is easy to lose sight of who the child is and instead focus on how they perform. God cares how we perform but it does not determine his love for us, our worth to him, or our salvation.

    One more thing, we both discussed how it is during the trials of our life that our character is refined and strengthened…either in a postive or a negative way. Much of the direction is dependent on the relationships and influences around us (i.e. mentors).

  6. This makes me think of an acronym my boss sent me during a time when I was struggling with a couple of the following words.
    C – Commitment
    H – Honesty
    A – Accountability
    R – Respect
    A – Attitude
    C – Courage
    T – Trust
    E – Ethics
    R – Responsibility

    It also makes me think of a quote from The Divine Mentor by Wayne Cordeiro: “A powerful force comes into play when we bring what we believe and how we live closer together.” Maybe we can add “what we know” to that statement as well. For me personally, it took the Holy Spirit’s work in my life to help me change my head knowledge into heart knowledge…and ultimately change me into who I am today. I wish I knew the answer as to how to develop character in today’s children. For me, it was just something God did–and continues to do–in my life. I think character is influenced by far more things than can be listed here, but I think faith–ACTIVELY believing God’s Word–is a key part.

    1. Great thoughts Dena! You said “For me personally, it took the Holy Spirit’s work in my life to help me change my head knowledge into heart knowledge…and ultimately change me into who I am today.” I couldn’t agree more! That does happen.

  7. To gain knowledge and information is profitable for the purpose of bringing Glory to God in everything we do, think, and say. To be an example of Christ’s character in our everyday living is the goal. May our focus be on Him and His Truth that others would be drawn to know Jesus personally. Pastor Mike, God is using you in this very way!

    How do we practically do this? “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve {disappoint} the Holy Spirit of God with who you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32 (and so much more!) God’s Word is clear!

  8. Good Afternoon Pastor Mike! Thanks for your message! My father was a great influence in my life. As I rebelled in my teen years, the old expression “In one ear and out the other” was in full gear, as I though do your own thing and just let me do mine. School teachers and most everyone around were still trying to teach me things.

    As growing up a little has taught me a little, I find that the things my Dad was trying to teach me had hit a road block between my ears! It is called LOVE, my algebra teacher didn’t love me or my chemistry teach, who’s facts I didn’t care about, I learned only enough to make a passing grade.

    My Dad taught me many things as a small child and teenager that took hold in the fertile soil of my mind, that have made me who I am today. I realize that all of this love, caring and support, brought me to where I am today, it is just today that I have the opportunity to share my faith with a loved one or a complete stranger. I do feel at home at Trinity and I will never forget the kindness and love I first felt there!!!! Today I praise the Lord! the start and finish of each day, and all that is between. I no longer feel alone, Thank you very much for your sharing!
    Dan Carroll

  9. My parents were very good role models and demonstrated valuable character traits such as faithfulness, consistency, self control and contentment which has served me well. It is hard to see children today without these traits floundering through life without direction. I agree with you that who you are is more important than what you are. I have told my kids numerous times that having sound character will serve them well in life moreso than a good education. God has set a standard for us to live by and desires to see his children hold true to these truths even if no one is watching. 1Peter 2:12 tells us to live honorably among unbelievers. May we be found faithful to this tenet.

  10. At 53, I have had “models” of character, but never found a mentor.I would like to think I know who I am, I believe the “secret” to knowing and being who I am is to not be someone else with different groups of people. In other words, I am not “double-minded”. Being double minded is like lying, you have to remember what you said to whom to keep it all straight. Being the same person day in and out you only have to remember being you.
    It is also important to like who you are and to be kind to yourself. Its ok to mess up, its even better to recover from it!
    Be yourself, forgive yourself, love yourself and do this unto to others as Jesus does for us everyday. My 2 cents.

  11. The etymology of “character” suggests the sum of the identifying marks engraved on (in) a person; identifying who we are. Character is not developed solely by the cataclysmic circumstances in our lives, but also by the trickle and seep of every-day life choices of the will; quality of discernment, choice, and intentions. Actions lead to habits which lead to character formation which leads to character expression.

    Paul suggests we keep in step with the Holy Spirit and allow His heart and mind be ours. Be in the Word. Be in prayer. Be with others demonstrating godly character. Think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy. Be transformed and express the fruit and character of the Spirit. This character can be purposefully mentored to others through a consistency of actions and words and leadership with love.

    Pastor Mike, related to your recent series entitled “Selfie,” some may be more interested in projecting a personality or persona than living a Spirit-led, moral, self-sacrificing, others-serving character. We may prefer performance rather than practice. This will hinder our spiritual (character) formation and it will hinder our effectiveness in mentoring goodness and rightness in others.

    James Madison, a founding father, would agree with the societal need for “this noble character.” He wrote: “Is there virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks—no form of Government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of Government will secure liberty or happiness without any form of virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.” It has been said that liberty is not freedom to do just as we please, but the ability to do as we ought; the ability to follow a truly moral compass.

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