While working with clients in a court-mandated anger management course, one of the surprising things we learned, (as some volunteered to share with us) was the fact that so many of them had experienced the same family characteristic– secrets! We were shocked to see this apparent connection between family secrets and dangerous anger.
We recently completed a 2-day trip from Beijing to Xi’an where we saw the 2,200 year-old terracotta warriors with our son, Jeremy, and his wife Rozana. We were amazed to learn the lengths to which China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang went in order to keep a big secret– that he had built an extensive underground world, a massive tomb mirroring his above-ground world.
How did he keep the site secret? He killed anyone who knew about it! Workers who brought the life-sized army, horses, chariots and weapons to the site were tragically buried alive with them. Thousands of concubines, those failing to produce children for the young emperor, were also buried alive and the entire site was buried many meters deep.
In 1974, farmers in the area were digging a well and came across some pieces of the buried army. Today, a massive archaeological effort is still underway, and apparently most of the site is still buried.
It makes one wonder: Who and what do we sacrifice in order to keep secrets? The motivation for most family secrets is “protection.” In our experience, when we try to protect those whose actions should not be condoned, we end up violating or betraying others. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic: when we bury our secrets we need to ask ourselves who is being buried alive with them.
A friend of
mine is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. In a recent Facebook post, he
included the statement: “The truth is . . healthy marriages require work.”
respectfully disagreed and posted my comment:
I agree with everything except the
word “work.” Great marriages require effort. It may sound the same,
but there is a profound difference. No one wants to hear that their spouse will
have to work hard to love them, but who wouldn’t want to know their spouse will
put a lot of effort into the relationship? We often put as much effort into our
vacations as in our vocations, but we call one play and the other work. I don’t
want my wife to think it will be so difficult to love her that I will have to work
at it every day. My 42-year marriage is a lot of fun and enjoyable effort.
Every time I
hear the seemingly common-sense statement that a good marriage requires “work,”
I tense up. Words are important. In fact, if it weren’t for a handful of words,
none of us would be married. As a lay religious leader a few years back, I was
suddenly granted the power in the state of New Jersey to marry people. I felt
anxious when, after the first marriage ceremony I performed, a couple went away
“believing” they were married. I thought to myself, “Is it something I said?” I
couldn’t wrap my mind around it.
saying the words, “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” two people were
joined together for the rest of their lives. My words to them were so powerful,
they caused the formation of a new family unit. A new “family tree” was planted
and generation after generation of posterity would owe their existence to seven
required “work,” I would need to attach that word and all of its connotations
to my experience with my wife. So, let’s see if the word fits:
it “work” when I look into her bright blue eyes, see my dearest and most
intimate friend, companion and lover, and remember those early dates when we
would talk late into the night about our dreams and ambitions?
it “work” when I spent two years away from her, serving overseas, and couldn’t
wait to get a letter from her in the mail? How about when we were finally
reunited on the sidewalk of a college campus, tearfully running into each
other’s arms as her classmates cheered?
our wedding day, was it “work” when I was unable to catch my breath because she
walked into the room dressed as a queen in white, and I knew she would be with
it “work” when we joyfully, eagerly and unitedly accepted the challenges of parenthood and welcomed six children into our
home who stretched and expanded our love for each other?
it have been called “work” when, hand-in-hand, we held each other up to face
financial disasters, the life-threatening illness of a child, physical
disabilities, a missing child, kidnapped grandchildren, persecution and
violence? The trials themselves might have been work but having her by my side
to face those challenges certainly was not work.
it called “work” when I am able to share my deepest fears and struggles with
her and she responds with amazing strength, wisdom, and an occasional kick in
doesn’t fit. From my perspective, the word “work” is not appropriate to
describe a healthy marriage. It is true that we need to put forth effort in
marriage, but with love in our hearts, that effort can become enjoyable, fun, stress-reducing
and even lifesaving.
When a dour college professor taught about the difficulties and hard work of marriage, my wife spoke up. By then she was a 55-year-old student completing her degree in Family Science. Surrounded by marriage-phobic twenty-somethings, she raised her hand and from years of marital experience that far surpassed her professor’s, she confidently stated, “Marriage is NOT hard! LIFE is hard! It can be so much easier when you have someone to share it with.”
Marriage is a force that combines the strengths and cancels out the weaknesses of two people. Marriage is greater than the sum of its parts, and therefore a powerful catalyst for change in a world that desperately needs it.
Marriage isn’t a liability, it’s an asset. Young people contemplating marriage often think of it as a future drain on their finances, emotional well-being, and freedom. Consequently, they look for the ideal time to get married—a time when they are flush with cash, have accomplished enough of their “fun” goals, own their home, have completed their formal education, and feel ready for the “liability” of marriage. Nothing could be further from that scenario than when two committed people love each other and experience the power of a truly life-affirming marriage. Not only are they more likely to enhance their temporal situation, but also their emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.
When we adjust our words about marriage, we can adjust our thinking, and ultimately access the power of our marriages. Let’s plan to put effort into our marriages, but let’s not mistake it for work.
But what about those who feel their marriage DOES require work? Maybe they haven’t found their spouse to be the supportive, loving person they had anticipated. We need to remember that a checklist of behavioral “do’s and don’ts” will not a great marriage make. It’s not what you DO, it’s how you feel about what you do that counts. Remember the vocation and vacation analogy. When, in our hearts, we know we’re on vacation, we can expend a great deal of effort while feeling refreshed and exhilarated. If your spouse saw you as a refreshing and exhilarating partner, do you think she/he might exhibit a different attitude and have different feelings about you?
Stay tuned for more articles and helps on how to improve relationships through better emotional literacy. What are some tools you can use to change the way you feel inside?
China Foreign Affairs University took several foreign teachers on a weekend trip to Qingdao (or Tsingdao). Sometimes, we couldn’t tell if we were in southern California or China. Our highlights start out with an amazing harbor light show that surpasses any we’ve seen in Asia. Among other things, exterior building lights showed dolphins and whales “swimming” from one building to another in a coordinated show of lights.
Next, we hit the beach and found many surprises.
LaoShan is a massive park devoted to remembering Laozu, the founder of China’s only native religion–Taoism (pronounced Dow-ism). Laozu lived in approximately 600 BC and his sayings have been revered for many centuries. Laozu himself emphasized the bond between heaven and earth, and his sayings promote peace and non-interference. This cite features the world’s largest statue of Laozu and a circular temple with a scene of creation and stars in the cosmos inside. It was incredible.
Guess what? More beach fun!
The food was incredible.
Back at the main pier, the tide was low but the hope of getting some crabs was high. This is a favorite local past-time.
On a hilltop, you can enter a revolving lookout station and view the harbor, the surrounding hills and even the governor’s mansion. Qingdao is known for its clear weather, red roofs and greenery.
It’s fun to interact with the locals, especially the children.
Laraine took some very heavy bags full of ingredients and utensils to the new campus to teach her students how to make American food, such as deviled eggs and layered bean dip. They were amazed (lots of “ooh’s and “ah’s” and many had never seen a cheese grater. Check out her pics:
Our university sponsored our attendance at a Saturday morning International Kite Flying event in Beijing on Saturday, May 4, 2019.
Only problem? Not much wind . . but our moods were certainly soaring! We learned something about flying a kite with very little wind: it’s all about HOPE. Every time you lift that kite into the air, start to run, and let out the string, you are filled with hope that THIS time will be the magical moment when the kite takes off. We got to learn from a master kite-maker and make our own kites while watching teams of kite enthusiasts attempting to get giant kites aloft.
Ruth Ann and Mike Martin brought their daughter Stacy, her husband Joseph, and their two little kids. They were a hit with the media.
A group of us sat around one day and said, “Hey, where does China’s great wall end, anyway?” Next thing you know, we found the end–where the great wall hits the ocean. Check out these pics:
Our trip included fun in the sun and sand at the beach, waiting in a visitor’s waiting room to cool off after our long trek, colorful kites, antique doors, the Goddess of the Sea, various historical figures, and even a very tall city wall connecting to the Great Wall.
The Motley Crew outside our university excited to get on the bus and head out to see where the Great Wall ends. (L to R): Kevin, Joseph, Eli (child), Mike, Stacey, Ruth Ann, Laraine, Ryan, Harris, Sai, “Zhurki”, Luke (child), Chris, Chuck
Remembering that first class day in September when a new crop of leadership students at China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU) looked up at me expectantly, I could almost see the questions forming behind those beautiful brown eyes.
“Who is this American, and what will we be doing in this ‘leadership’
class?” “Does he really think we need to learn about leadership—something so
far into our future?”
On that first day, I looked into their skeptical eyes and got
no response when I said, “Raise your hand if you think of yourself as a leader.”
Polling the class, I verified what I had already discovered about most students
in China: they think of leadership only in terms of positional power.
I then did something unexpected: I showed four short video
clips of orchestra conductors leading their orchestras. Each had a unique
style. One kept a steady metronome-like beat, showing no emotion on his face.
Another closed his eyes while swaying and waving his arms in oversized motions.
A third conductor did an exuberant little dance while gesturing with his arms.
The fourth was the most unusual. He did nothing with his body and, strangely,
kept his arms folded while simply raising his eyebrows occasionally and pursing
his lips. This brought some nervous laughter from the class.
As the music went silent, I looked around the room at puzzled
expressions. Breaking the silence, I said, “The true essence of leadership is simply
manifesting your most important values. Can you tell what the first conductor valued?”
Getting no response, I continued, “The first conductor
valued a regular, steady rhythm.” I then imitated this maestro’s robot-like
“What about the second conductor?” Again, no response. I closed
my eyes and made big motions with my arms. “Can you tell this conductor really
valued the emotions of his music?”
“What about the third conductor?” I asked. Finally, a timid
student piped up, “He likes to dance.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “He seems to value physical movement and
expression.” Several students nodded in agreement.
“How about the fourth conductor?” This brought snickers as
the students remembered the conductor who seemed to do nothing. “Can you tell
what he values?” All heads went down to their desks.
“It might be hard to recognize, but can you see that this
conductor valued the musicians’ individual and collective expression and
interpretation of the music—even without his involvement? He wants them to come
forth with their own expressions. But it doesn’t make him any less a leader,
As the school year progressed, students became less
skeptical, more engaged and more determined to be “values-expressing” leaders. They
joined me in exploring leadership through discussion and memorable activities.
We went through John C. Maxwell’s 5
Levels of Leadership, examining case studies, working in teams to make
critical decisions in simulated conditions, and even analyzing Deputy Barney
Fife’s humorous behavior as a “Level 1” leader in the old American sit-com, The
Andy Griffith Show. We worked through concepts in Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High
(Kerry Patterson et al.) by creating simulated conflicts and allowing students
to practice newly learned techniques to resolve those conflicts. We used unusual,
right-hand/left-hand writing and drawing methods developed by Dr. Lucia
Cappachione (The Power of Your Other Hand,
etc.) to become more self-aware in order to more effectively lead others.
Students kept a leadership journal, starting with a list of
their most important values. As the year continued, some were able to share
from their journal and examine how well they had expressed those important
values with others in their class, in their teams, in their community and at
Finally, at the end of the year, we examined Fortune Magazine’s
list of the 50 top world leaders. Choosing the top twelve who happened to be leaders
in government, business, activism and philanthropy, we discussed what they all
had in common. Because the list included male and female, old and young (even a
16-year- old), rich and poor, employers and employees, etc., the common element
was obvious. Each leader had been successful in identifying a value within themselves
and moving heaven and earth to express and manifest that value. Students’
understanding of leadership and their roles in it had taken a huge jump forward
from the first day of class.
China Foreign Affairs University is the “cradle of diplomacy” for China. All Chinese diplomats must receive training at CFAU, and a large percentage of China’s diplomats have also received undergraduate or graduate degrees at CFAU. It feels good to know this powerful nation’s future is in the hands of those who have a better understanding and passion for leadership.
What might the world reap from the seeds sown in my “leadership crop” this year?
A beautiful sculpture park is found just 45 minutes away from our apartment (by bicycle). We’ve been there a couple of times. The sculptures are amazing–from various parts of the world. Here are just a few:
Our university invited us to attend a conference in a “small” town of just 1.2 million people. We accepted the invitation and soon found that we were the guests of honor (token Americans) at a huge “friendship walk” in central China. In XinYang, we were “wined and dined,” put up in a 5-star hotel, and treated like royalty.
At the Opening Ceremonies, we were escorted into a stadium filled with thousands of cheering people. I was given a red jacket with a Chinese flag over my heart, and put on stage with about 11 other foreigners. They introduced me as a distinguished teacher from America while thousands of people cheered, a half-dozen drones flew around our heads, taking pictures, and television cameras recorded everything.
When it came time to leave on the 13 Km walk, we were mobbed by people wanting our picture. Even as we walked away and came to a small village, I stopped to stretch and young boys pulled out their phones to get pictures. My memory is bending over at the waist to stretch my hamstring while a young boy laid on the ground, peering up at my sagging red face with his camera a few inches from my nose. I don’t even want to see that picture. — Chuck Chamberlain
Key to pictures below: 1) Pic with host at dinner 2) Another host at dinner 3) host with Lynne, our school liaison 4) on our walk, these men stared very intently at us, and it seemed they had never seen an American in person. We asked to take their picture 5) workers harvesting tea leaves -so beautiful 6) more greenery on our walk 7) Card playing in hotel lobby, two girls from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan joined us 8) Fellow teacher, Cory, is very tall and a magnet for picture taking 9) little guy and his mom very curious about us 10) trying to stretch, missed the best picture of the boy on the ground getting my face as I bent over 11) forming C-F-A-U with our fingers 12) Introduced as a high muckety muck 13) fellow big shots on stage 14) One of the many drones getting our picture 15) With fellow big shots 16)Chuck, Laraine, Lynn, Cory, and a local helper 17) in our hotel lobby