Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver

NOTE: This post is something of a departure from my usual tone, as it will be more dry and academic than I usually write. This is because it’s a subject I have strong emotions about, and in an attempt to avoid breathing fire on my keyboard, I’ve squeezed a lot of my normal humor out of it.

But it’s still an important piece about a vital subject, so please take the time to read it and form your own opinions. I promise I only froth at the mouth a tiny bit.

What if we’ve been wrong about preschool this whole time?Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

Lots of people see “preschool” and they think “good.” We all want our kids to learn, right? We want them to have the best chance to succeed, right? And wouldn’t starting them in an institutional learning system as early as possible be the best way to do this?

No.

There’s also the question of whether this is the best way to honor God with our children. We want them to “achieve their full potential” and get good jobs, etc., but if we don’t make honoring God our chief focus (and make sure our kids know as much as we can teach them about Jesus) then we’re not living our Christian witness to the best of our ability.

But I’ll save that for a different post. For now, I’ll focus on the benefits preschool promises: academics, adult interaction, and affirmative action.

Let’s dive into this topic and try to figure out what we’re hoping to get out of preschool and whether it really delivers (or not)!

Academic Achievement

We all want Little Johnny to learn “reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic”. After all, “whatever you do, do it as though you were working to the Lord.” We want our kids to be able to support themselves, contribute to their communities, and enrich the lives of others…to say nothing of living full lives themselves and using the intellectual gifts God has given them.

It all starts with a “good education,” right?

And preschool is one of the best ways to give kids that, right?

No.

Where child development is concerned, there are very few absolutes…but the evidence is coming in stronger and stronger that preschool – especially an academically-focused preschool – does not give kids an “edge” to learning…and in fact might hurt them.

Academics over Learning

There’s been a lot of emphasis lately on pushing kids to achieve higher standards at earlier ages. The Atlantic tells us how kids who used to be expected to read by the end of first grade are now expected to read by the end of preschool. Maybe I’m doing the math wrong, but isn’t that a two-year advance?

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

How can we help our children thrive? Image from Pixabay

A recent article in the newsletter from the Home School Legal Defense Association cites several researchers and testimonies from parents that children grow and develop at different ages. For instance, “children who had learned to read in kindergarten had no substantial advantage over those who learned to read in the 1st grade.”

Kids have different development rates, and that’s okay. Trying to force them into a one-size-fits-all system is a terrible way to let them flourish.

Parents testify to children as old as seven and eight years old who would not have done well in a traditional, sit-down-shut-up learning environment. Forcing these children to attend a rigorous preschool at four or five years old would not have helped them with “school preparedness”…it would have destroyed them. They needed a kinetic, hands-on learning environment tailored to their particular interests (an environment that their parents did provide for them).

The article also references increased diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD), or similar disorders on the spectrum, when kids who aren’t developmentally ready for school are expected to conform to the school environment. Do these kids really have a learning disability? Or are they just being asked to perform above where their brain and body have developed to?

Long-term consequences?

There’s more. According to Psychology Today, an intense focus on academic attainment (learning reading, writing, and math through worksheets and instruction) in preschool almost doubles a child’s chance of a felony record. (Presumably because the early pressure and behavioral expectations led to them acting out more in school, and elsewhere…although it’s impossible to finger causality in cases like this.)

Contrast this with “play-based” preschools where children are encouraged to play, interact with others, and explore on their own…sort of like what they would do in a natural home setting, perhaps in conjunction with play-dates.

EdLibertyWatch.org collects quotes from several different papers, including this study from the National Bureau of Economic Research: “…researchers concluded that preschool has a positive impact on reading and mathematics scores in the short term and a negative effect on behavior.”

Further, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that a 2015 study found that “while children coming from ECE [early childhood education] programs earned higher achievement scores in kindergarten, these students did not test higher than their non-ECE attending peers by first grade, and tested below their peers by the third grade.”

Which is more important?

A slight, temporary rise in test scores in exchange for increased behavior issues, and even more ADHD diagnoses? Wait – should this even be a trade-off at all?

The homeschooling examples prove we can suit our education models to each child’s learning needs. Maybe we shouldn’t throw the “preschool” baby out with the bathwater…but it’s high time we stopped taking it for granted that the earlier we got our kids into preschool, the higher their college entrance scores would be.

The spiritual dimension: anti-Biblical curriculum

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

Image from Unsplash

I know I said I’d leave this for later, but I came across a quote during my research that just stunned me:

What is gender identity? Why should it to be taught to three and four year old children? How [will it] close the achievement gap for poor and minority children?…

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAYEC), whose accreditation results in both more Minnesota state funding for childcare programs and gains a higher rating in the Parent Aware quality rating system, promotes these types of “gender anatomy and gender identity” exercises in its curriculum.

(Education Liberty Watch, quoting from the National Association for the Education of Young Children)

Notice that both state money and professional validation are tied to accepting the NAYEC’s view on this moral issue. And homosexuality is only one example – the culture has a whole hat-full of issues to introduce to your kids.

If you thought preschool was all about “school readiness” and getting a jump-start on learning the alphabet, these secular educators have one up on you. Kids at these ages are sponges, ready to accept whatever the “people in charge” teach them.

And if your child’s preschool is teaching transgender issues with anatomically correct dolls, wouldn’t you want to know about it – and be involved in conversations with your child?

To defuse the part-to-whole objections:

No, I’m not saying every teacher in every school is out to make your preschooler gay. But think about the trend of the culture, the political pressures of “this present age”…and remember who God will hold accountable for the children He entrusted to you.

Adult Interaction

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia WoodWe want kids to grow up to be confident, competent, fully-functioning adults. Kids are great at learning by imitating (just wait until they start repeating that one word you wish you hadn’t said).

So the best way for them to learn how to be adults is…by putting them around adults.

More specifically, there’s plenty of research that what children at the preschool ages need is not math worksheets and vocabulary tests, but stable, lasting relationships. They will have plenty of time to grasp the more cerebral concepts if their emotional, psychological, and spiritual health is firmly grounded in relationships with trustworthy adults.

As Morningstar Education Network’s research adviser, Denise Kanter, says: “Young children need to be at home bonding with their mothers and fathers.”

KindredMedia.org collects several reports that speak to this:

“Young children learn best through meaningful interaction with real materials and caring adults and their peers, not through the drilling of isolated skills.”…Kids from play-based programs usually catch up academically, while kids from academic backgrounds may never catch up socially. — Education.com

…the years from birth to age 5 are viewed as a critical period for developing the foundations for thinking, behaving, and emotional well-being. Child development experts indicate it is during these years that children develop linguistic, cognitive, social, emotional, and regulatory skills that predict their later functioning in many domains. — Early Childhood Education: The Long-Term Benefits (PDF)

But won’t my child miss out on socialization if he doesn’t go to preschool?

If you do the necessary socializing and relationship-building that parenthood involves, your child won’t suffer from missing out on preschool. Just because a good preschool is superior to plopping kids in front of the TV and ignoring them, though, doesn’t mean it should be our go-to method of child-rearing. (See below!)

The Atlantic article cited above explains that organic, child-driven learning (coached by engaged adults) is more interactive – and more educational – than the traditional “butt-in-seat” classroom model. This is where a teacher (or parent) uses a child’s natural curiosity to let them explore the world and ask questions (yes, millions of questions) and let them learn through the natural give-and-take of human conversation…instead of a list of facts they will be tested on later.

Focus on the Family insists that preschool should enhance the parents’ relationship with their child, not hinder it — nor simply be a way to get a “leg up” on those other kids! After all, trying to “keep up with the Joneses” isn’t very neighborly, is it?

The spiritual dimension

We should be especially concerned about this as Christians. Rod Dreher in his book The Benedict Option – which is all about cultivating a deliberate, passionate Christianity that informs every aspect of our daily lives – talks about how the model of “education” has changed over the past century. Instead of learning about the natural world and human history as a way to understand God better, and as a way to provide context for the divine order of the universe, modern schools are focused on retaining facts and applying them to work skills.

“Every educational model presupposes an anthropology: an idea of what a human being is. In general, the mainstream model is geared toward equipping students to succeed in the workforce, to provide a pleasant, secure life for themselves and their future families…and to fulfill their personal goals—whatever those goals might be.” (pg. 147)

Christian education, in contrast, should focus on “join[ing] ourselves to Christ and striv[ing] to live in harmony with the divine will” – from the time we wake up and have breakfast, to when we’re walking past the weird stranger on the street, to when we say our prayers at night.

As Christians, we need to teach our children that God is an important part of every single facet of our lives…that He is not somehow unrelated to physics, or social studies, or English spelling.

Tend your own personal orchid

Remember how every single child is unique, and develops at his or her own rate? Just because your child is seven years old and can’t spell doesn’t mean he (or you) is a failure. It means he needs someone caring and invested to give him the help he needs to learn in the best way for him (like getting up and moving during spelling tests, instead of glued to a desk with a pencil in his hand).

My mom used to have me write short stories with the words I missed on spelling tests…and now I can spell “snake” and “rabbit” just like any other well-adjusted twenty-something! (And, well, check out my “Books” tab to see what encouraging my story-telling got us!)

Kicking your orchids out of the hot-house make them shrivel…

Going back to that wealth of materials collected by EdLibertyWatch.org, the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD – 2007) say:

The more time a child spent in center-based care the more likely he or she was to be described by sixth grade teachers as one who “gets in many fights,” is “disobedient at school,” and “argues a lot.”

Children need a stable home life to help them develop emotionally and behaviorally – and that maturity will only improve their academic endeavors later on. In fact, to quote the rest of the excerpt on the NICHD study:

…NICHD tracked 1,364 children who had participated in early childhood education. Preschool participants were more likely to score higher on factors of aggression and disobedience as reported by their teachers. This finding was true even for children who attended high quality center-based care.

Remember: who are the two adults children will interact with for the greatest part of their growing-up? Their parents. Even if they go to institutional school and learn from different teachers every single year, they need a strong relationship with their parents to anchor them throughout their childhoods and beyond.

Children are more than a statistic…and when it comes to their lives, we need to be concerned about more than what the “experts” say, “what we’ve always done,” or what supposedly “works” to get the outcome we want.

This isn’t about outcomes. It’s about doing what God says. Right?

Teach a man to fish…

My parents have always affirmed that teaching their children how to study is one of the most important things they could do.

Children who develop emotional, psychological, and cognitive maturity will be self-motivated to study…and if they haven’t had their love of learning “snuffed out” by over-exposure, they will drive their own educational journey through grade school, high school, college, and beyond into adult life. (You knew we don’t stop learning once we get a job and don’t have a designated “teacher,” right?)

Assisting the Disadvantaged

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

I don’t have a picture of an impoverished child, so enjoy this cute dog instead.

A lot of voices in favor of preschool emphasize “closing the gap” between the “disadvantaged,” poor children and those with a better home life. A noble goal, and one in line with God’s own plan for us (check out James 1:27 and Mark 12:29-31).

The orphan (or in some places “fatherless”) is already late to the starting line, before the race even starts. That’s no fault of theirs, and God cares deeply about giving justice to the oppressed and helpless (just read, like, all of the Psalms).

However… While it’s good to feel for children who are growing up with only one parent, who suffer lack of opportunity due to poverty, etc. – none of that explains how the preschool system is superior to the natural, historic, and God-given system of two dedicated parents raising and educating their own biological children themselves.

And our concern for disadvantaged kids should in no way interfere with the raising of those kids who are blessed with a committed mom and dad.

But what about those poor kids who don’t have the same chances other children do?

Maybe they’re living in a single parent home, or their family doesn’t have the financial resources for books, etc. Maybe they really do have ADHD, autism, blindness, or some other physical barrier to learning the way other kids do. Do early childhood education programs help them succeed better – both now and later in life?

The Psychology Today article referenced above shared the results of a study among “sixty eight high-poverty children living in Ypsilanti, Michigan”. This study was largely to examine the effects on these children of a “Direct Instruction” preschool classroom (that focused on academic attainment) versus a “Traditional” preschool (which emphasized play). To quote:

[T]he experiment also included a home visit every two weeks, aimed at instructing parents in how to help their children. …

The initial results of this experiment were similar to those of other such studies. Those in the direct-instruction group showed early academic gains, which soon vanished. This study, however, also included follow-up research when the participants were 15 years old and again when they were 23 years old. At these ages there were no significant differences among the groups in academic achievement, but large, significant differences in social and emotional characteristics.

That’s right. “No significant differences in academic achievement“!

This is the same pattern we saw in the other studies. The writers suggest that the children in the so-called “play-based” preschools learned to “plan their own activities, to play with others, and to negotiate differences” – skills which served them not only in the later grades, but beyond into adulthood. (“Teach a man to fish…”)

The article writers also theorize that the home visits encouraged the children’s parents to reinforce these teaching styles. The Traditional “play-based” preschools encouraged the parents to let their children interact with the world creatively. The Direct Instruction preschools were focused on test scores and other “academic” markers of “personal achievement” – and this focus on “personal achievement” could have encouraged these children in the selfish attitudes that led to their generally more anti-social behavior.

Without being simple pragmatists, let’s look at the fruit.

The Bible tells us we can evaluate teachers by their fruit…or in other words, we can pick up hints about whether to listen to them by watching their actions (Matt. 7:15-20).

What is the outcome of preschool for disadvantaged children?

Obviously in some cases the outcome was…not too good. Early pressure to achieve, plus a focus on personal performance, encouraged anti-social behavior in some of these individuals. We might go even farther, and say that denying them a carefree childhood, and the opportunity to learn at their own pace, hampered their emotional and social growth.

So we see that even for disadvantaged children, the best outcome is the one that mimics a traditional, Biblical upbringing centered in the home of their biological parents.

But, post writer, what about all the terrible parents who will just stick their kids in front of the TV and who have no idea how to parent –

Statistically speaking, children with “bad” parents will have poor outcomes, no matter what school system you devise for them. The students discussed in Psychology Today had professionals visiting them at home to advise their parents how to support the teaching curriculum of their preschool – and the results still weren’t stellar.

The point is not that we should “give up” on these disadvantaged kids, but that we need to have our eyes firmly fixed on JESUS and to make sure we’re 1) trying to accomplish what He wants, and 2) going to Him for direction in how to do that.

Systemic Dysfunction

Preschools that drill facts and figures into little kids doesn’t help them. In fact, in the worst cases, it hurts their chances because they missed out on that crucial period of character development by worrying about head knowledge.

Children at these young ages should be sending down their roots and finding out what can be depended on…not raising their branches to test high on impersonal markers of “achievement.”

The preschools that did seem to succeed were the ones that allowed children to flourish at their own pace and ask questions naturally…in fact, the care centers that mimicked a nurturing home environment.

Further, as Christians, we understand that there are more important markers to success than grades or salaries. Give me ten children who respect their parents, treat those around them with kindness, and love their Creator over one “child” who makes six figures with his graduate degree and can’t keep his marriage together.

Institutional education is the cultural norm.

My grandparents have finally stopped asking when I’m going to get a college diploma (although they’re still not satisfied with my Associate’s Degree). The culture around us expects us to send our kids off on the bus as soon as they can walk, and our young adults off to college as soon as they’re old enough to join the army vote.

But is that the best way? Is that really how we’re going to accomplish our goals? Even if it was, the ends do not justify the means. (Otherwise, as my brother loves to shout, there is no justice, only means.)

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

Which is the “straight and narrow” way? Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

God calls us to justice and righteousness. How can we strive for that in our everyday lives, and with our children?

Maybe in some other post, we’ll examine what God calls us to in our daily lives, and what that means for raising our kids. Until then, take a good, hard look at your own decisions.

I firmly believe the system of institutional education is broken – and that goes all the way down to preschool. Whether you agree with me, or think my mom dropped me on my head as a young’un, your kids are worth more than the default.

We need to get out of the rut of thinking “preschool” always equals “good.” Can it help? Sure – under certain circumstances and in certain situations.

But don’t do it because “everyone else is doing it.” Don’t do it because it’s expected of you, or because the grandparents want you to.

These are your kids we’re talking about – the kids God gave to you. Look at all the evidence, and decide if preschool will really help your kids to send down their roots, and thrive in God.


Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, gaming, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing projects.

5 Love Languages—Translating Our Affection

The “five love languages” is a concept invented by Pastor Gary Chapman (see the official site here), and it theorizes that different people show and experience affection in different ways.

Some feel loved by “Physical Touch.” Others value “Giving Gifts.” “Acts of Service” or “Quality Time” are how some people feel most affirmed or loved, while “Words of Affirmation” complete some people’s world.

Do You Speak My Language?

5 Love Languages—Translating Our Affection — Kimia Wood

Sibling love!

Most of us don’t go around wanting to hurt people, or offend them, or do things that make them uncomfortable.

But what if someone told you how much they admired you and enjoyed being your friend…in Tagalog? Chances are you wouldn’t have any idea what they meant, and wouldn’t be built up by it.

We’re full of friendly feelings, kind thoughts, and compassionate impulses. We want to make everyone around us feel special, and show the love of Jesus.

How can we do it in a way that they understand? Sure, they might know we mean well, and appreciate what we’re doing…but can we do it in a way that speaks to their heart?

Refocusing the questions

I once went through a quiz to discover my love language, and the questions went something like this:

“I feel affirmed when you _[pick one]_.”

“When you _[pick one]_, I really feel loved.”

There’s nothing exactly wrong with this…except my responses would vary depending on who I was thinking about (Mom, Dad, brother, coworker, best friend).

Mom is always doing things for us. So when she buys me a gift, it means that much more – because she went out of her way to do that.

My brother’s big on hugs. When he does the dishes without being asked? That’s huge.

So…I’m not unique in this revelation, but if we really want to identify our own (and others’) “love language,” let’s start with how we prefer to give affection!

Step 1: Subject in a Controlled Environment

Take a look at yourself! You can know yourself better and more easily than you can know anyone else. So…

A coworker is going through a hard time. You:

  • Take a meal to their house.
  • Sit with them at lunch and try to just “be there.”
  • Write them an encouraging note.

It’s your mom’s birthday! You want to show her how much she means! You:

  • Buy her something big and expensive.
  • Go to her house to give her a big hug in person.
  • Call her on the phone (you’ve composed a poem in her honor to read to her).
  • Take her to a movie/concert/dinner/something she enjoys

You want to affirm your best friend. You:

  • Write down all the things you appreciate about them, and give them the note.
  • Mow their lawn, fix their sink, or babysit their kids.
  • Buy them a little something, just because.
  • Ask to spend a day with them, doing whatever they want.

When you want to reach out to someone, what’s your default method?

Obviously, you probably don’t go around hugging strangers (that would be weird)…but do you make sure to kiss your family members before bed every night? Do you like giving high-fives, fist-bumps, and side-hugs? You might be a “Physical Touch” person.

Now that you’ve done this step, you have a better idea what to look for. And we can actually apply this knowledge to translating your care for someone into their language!

Step 2: Observations in the Wild

5 Love Languages—Translating Our Affection — Kimia WoodPick another person. Any person. Coworker, cousin, church sibling, parent, child, neighbor…any person you interact with! We’ll arbitrarily name them “Taylor” for simplicity’s sake.

Now for the hard questions. When Taylor sees a coworker feeling down, he/she:

  • Bakes a cake for them.
  • Slips a note into their locker.
  • Hugs them (not caring that it’s weird!)
  • Sits and listens to them…no matter how long it takes.

Taylor’s grandma isn’t feeling well. He/she:

  • Volunteers to drive Grandma to all the doctor’s visits.
  • Calls Grandma every day, just to check in.
  • Does the laundry and dishes for her.
  • Assembles all the kids to go see Grandma in person.

When Taylor wants to let you know he/she’s happy to see you, he/she:

  • Hugs you.
  • Tells you how important you are in his/her life.
  • Offers to do a chore for you.
  • Asks to go out sometime, to a movie/concert/dinner/shopping/ministry opportunity.
  • Gives you something (even if it’s just the cupcake in his/her hand!).

Starting to make sense? What is Taylor’s default method for telling someone, “You are special” or “I like being your friend”?

With this data, you can move to the next step…

Step 3: Speak Their Language!

I’ve been (re)reading this awesome book about sharing the Good News of Jesus in a way your listeners can understand. It’s not just about avoiding “propitiation” and “double predestination”…it’s about finding the piece of the amazing good news about Jesus that specifically speaks to their hearts, that the Holy Spirit wants to use to bring them to God.

This applies to showing affection, too! God calls us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But if your grandma doesn’t adore heavy metal rock as much as you do, that CD you gave her won’t seem loving to her (except that she’s your grandma and knows you mean well).

How can we show love, concern, affection, and self-sacrificial humility to those around us? How can we “speak” in a way that their hearts instinctively understand that we want to build them up?

When my dad gives me a present, I know he loves me…but when he vacuums, or fixes the house, I see him stepping out of his “default” to show how he cares for us!

Now step out there and speak in someone else’s language. Even if they knew you cared before, this might make them say, “Hey…I guess they really mean it!”


5 Love Languages—Translating Our Affection — Kimia WoodKimia Wood is into gifts…so (ahem) check out that Books tab (cough)!

She currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

When Meta-Gaming Breaks Play

Meta-gaming is a term that refers to when gamers try to think outside of the “box” of the game narrative…and just focus on winning.

You might not think this is such a bad thing, but it really is…because it infects more than just games.

World of WarcraftWhen Meta-Gaming Breaks Play — Kimia Wood

It’s easiest to see in a computer role-playing game (CRPG) like World of Warcraft.

Once upon a time, WoW gave your character “talent points” for leveling up, and you applied these points to a complicated tree that eventually led to other abilities or perks. (Other CRPGs frequently used this system also, such as Diablo 2.)

With so many branches to choose from – and different end goals that you had to work hard to achieve – you could truly make your character unique.

I personally poured all my talent points into making my mage’s cast time faster.

Other players? They crunched numbers and created Reddit pages dictating the exact specifications you “needed” to “really be an X, Y or Z.”

Are you a Warrior? You need this build order. Are you a Hunter? You must put your talents into these things. The algorithms are such that only this configuration will give you a “proper” character of your chosen class.

No matter if you just wanted to make your cast time faster, and wouldn’t be caught dead in a player vs. player (PvP) scenario (unless you’re doing the Children’s Week achievement…and the reason you avoid it is you usually end up dead! Ugh).

The Reddit types are no longer playing. They are gaming.

Instead of helping Varian and the Alliance defeat the undead, they’re now trying to max out their gear.

They’re not interested in breathing life into their avatar by giving them a totally unique build of talents and quirks. They want to know what will give them the maximum edge in combat, and then they’re playing to win.

No wonder Blizzard Entertainment simplified the talent system to where you choose one of three new spells or abilities every level (instead of funneling points toward different branching tree systems).

Dungeons and Dragons

When Meta-Gaming Breaks Play — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Wikipedia

Relaunching our campaign and delving into the world of AD&D has given us a chance to examine this gaming system.

My dad especially has found there’s a lot of tips to help Game Masters (or Dungeon Masters for some) prevent players from “meta-gaming.”

This is why players aren’t allowed to trade or give items to each other (imagine two siblings teaming up and sharing all their loot…how unfair would that be?). Same reason players are discouraged from running two characters at once (of course I will let Myself borrow my Magic Sword of Dragon-Smiting!).

You might be wondering, “What’s wrong with people being friendly and wanting to share?”

Meta-gaming!

See, each character in D&D has “stats” – like strength, dexterity, charisma (how convincing you are to people), constitution (how well you recover from illnesses), etc.

Meta-gaming knows what these stats are, and tries to work them to its advantage.

It tells the strongest character to try opening the door, the prettiest character to get information out of the innkeeper, and the smartest character to read the cryptic writing on the scroll. It gives the magic sword to the guy who needs it most (not the guy who found it, for example), and tries to distribute other items, potions, etc. according to stat needs.

Of course, with all these actions you have to roll the dice to see if you succeed…and a good GM can either give you a helping hand, or totally mess with your plans.

BECAUSE THE POINT IS NOT WINNING.

I mean, obviously we want to win. But the point of the game is not to play with pencil in one hand and calculator in the other, figuring out the exact probability of each fight and moving into just the right place to maximize profit. (Which is exactly what the brother and I do playing Battle for Wesnoth, by the way…:} .)

The point of the game is to play.

You are this character. What might they do? Sure, your character sheet says you have great charisma…but how good is your acting when you talk with the GM (who plays all the non-player characters)?

Yeah, the sheet says this character is the strongest…but his player has portrayed him as a gentle giant, unsure of himself, so it doesn’t make sense for him to rush into the fray.

Besides, the guy with lower strength got a really good roll, and opened the door with no problem.

I said earlier that meta-gamers think outside the box…but actually, they’re confined by the numbers and the probabilities, and don’t have the creative freedom to try a true “outside the box” solution. (Like “let’s pull on the door together – or use this broken sword as a lever” or “his character is ugly as sin but the player is great at improv – let him talk us out of this”…)

Where am I going with this?When Meta-Gaming Breaks Play — Kimia Wood

So meta-gaming can make a game less fun (unless lots of math or internet searches is how you like to spend your game time), but is it really worth a whole post?

Is it really so bad? Can’t I let some players do them, and let me do me?

Theology

It doesn’t just apply to games, see. Though that’s where it shows up most visibly…

Jesus had a lot of harsh things to say to the Pharisees – a brand of “hyper-observant” Jews who took the Law of Moses and the Old Testament super seriously and were doing their best to follow what God said.

Or were they?

What was that Jesus said to them?

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matt. 23: 23)

And He got more explicit:

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men. And he said to them, You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!

For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’

But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do. (Mark 7: 8-13)

See, they weren’t focused on playing. They were into gaming.

God said, “Here’s My game. Here are My rules. Now let’s play.”

But the Pharisees said, “I crunched the numbers, and this is how I need to play to win the encounter.” (I.e. their goal was “eternal life,” not actually “living with God wherever He is.” – see John 5:39-46)

And God said, “That’s actually not the point, and no, you don’t win.”

Go with the Game Master

It’s so easy to fall into the meta-gaming trap. We think if we put tracts in every bathroom we visit, then we don’t have to witness to our neighbor next door.

Or that because we went and visited lonely people in the nursing home, we can sass off to our mom at home.

We’ll say, “The man is not doing his job; but the job needs to get done. So we’ll have this woman do it” – even though that’s exactly what God said not to do!

We see that parents are not taking care of their kids…so we decide we’ll do it for them, instead of helping the parents fulfill their God-ordained duty to raise/teach their own kids!

WHO DID GOD GIVE THOSE KIDS TO AGAIN?

I know you couldn’t get an 18 on the parents’ character sheet if you added all the numbers together (18 is the max stat), but that doesn’t mean you can mess with the encounter.

The GM says it’s their role to do this. /end rant

This “pragmatism” is a “need to achieve.”

When you meta-game, you are essentially saying:

  • “We can’t trust the GM to arrange things in our favor. We have to become slaves of the numbers to make the system work.”
  • “The actual children aren’t important, only the test scores/high scores/level achievements we get. We’re not here to walk beside our children and trust God to bless us…we’re here to do ‘whatever it takes’ to get the output we want – e.g. the good grades, good jobs, good social skills we’re sure we’ll get if we use the Magic Wand of Academic Readiness.”
  • “I saw on a Reddit page that soup kitchens help reduce crime. I’m not sure how, so let’s not bother to establish strong, stable relationships with the hurting people we meet – or heaven forbid share Jesus with them! – but focus on running as many people through our lunch line as possible. Because Jesus said, ‘Go thou and get high attendance numbers,’ right?”

What does the “Game Master” really say?

He says that checking off the prayer, Bible reading, soup kitchen, and “smiling” boxes doesn’t win the game for you! This is not about getting the “proper” gear for your class.

This is about immersing yourself in the game, and playing with all your heart.

Cry when a side character dies. Don’t sweat that your stats aren’t high enough. Solve the puzzles in new, creative ways. If you “break the fourth wall” too much, it won’t be there anymore…and you won’t even be in the story anymore.

Trust the Guy-in-charge-of-the-game. If you play His way, you will win. The Referee is on your side, see 😉

‘Cause it’s not about winning. It’s about playing the game with your “Dad.”


When Meta-Gaming Breaks Play — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, gaming, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing projects.


Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

5 Stages of Singleness

5 Stages of Singleness

5 Stages of Singleness — Kimia Wood — single Christian

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

So. You’re Christian. You’re single.

There’s ups and downs that go with that territory, and if you’re like me, you might find yourself going through these five “stages” of singleness (probably bouncing between them with the shifts of the wind!):

Denial

Marriage? Bah! Marriage forces you to get along with a radically different person for the rest of your life, mirroring the love of Christ for His church in your self-sacrificial service to one another.

Who needs that work?

This is the mood where you think spouses aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Every story on the planet includes a romantic subplot (if it’s not a straight-up romance story), every song on the radio (no matter what station) is talking about pairing up, and every person you know is “involved,” about to be “involved,” or trying to be “involved”…but that doesn’t mean you should take it seriously. Continue reading

Being Not Achieving—What Vacation Taught Me

Being Not Achieving—What Vacation Taught Me — Kimia Wood

Some things you gotta see for yourself…

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on vacation with my family. And I’ve been sick the whole stinkin’ time.

You know how any vacation goes…the expectation, the planning, the packing and list-making… This particular time, we were camping – so the organization of “this goes in my tent”, “this smells like food, so goes in the bear barrel”, “this is only for the car ride” was intensified.

I always over-pack for car rides, vacations, etc. I had my list of everything I could get done (see below) and anticipation was especially high since this is the last extended vacation for our immediate family for the foreseeable future (four adults’ work schedules are hard to coordinate).

But God allowed something else to happen. Namely, a “sinus infection” that is still making my voice softer and weaker than normal! Continue reading

Notre Dame vs. Notre Pere – Every Cathedral Will Burn

Notre Dame vs. Notre Pere – Every Cathedral Will Burn — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Yahoo news

This week came the shocking news: the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris burned.

We don’t have a television, so it was even more surreal for me to happen upon a public TV and sees shots of the iconic cathedral wreathed in flames.

While now it seems only the roof and spire were destroyed, it’s something that can’t be undone. 850 years of history and more, gone. Some suggest that France does not even have large enough trees to repair the damage.

The whole thing was even more poignant to me since I just watched a video essay about The Hunchback of Notre Dame and how Disney’s version (and the other film adaptations) differed from Victor Hugo’s original vision…which was basically to focus on the cathedral itself, how architecture was used to convey values, and how the written word was rendering that practice obsolete (video link here – language cautions).

Why bother talking about this? Well, it got me thinking – as many things do…

Buildings Decay

If you’ve read the books of Kings and Chronicles, you’ll recall that the Temple of God that Solomon built in Jerusalem kept needing to be repaired (and the kings Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah all raised money for that purpose). (See 2 Chron. 24; 2 Kings 17-20; 2 Chron. 29-30; 2 Kings 22-23; and 2 Chron. 34.) Continue reading

Living Generously—Combating Our Addiction to Free

Living Generously—Combating Our Addiction to Free — Kimia Wood

Image courtesy of Author Kristen Lamb

I love free stuff. I can’t count the number of free ebooks I have on my computer, and I’m notorious for collecting free leftover food for our chickens.

But maybe enough is enough.

It all started when I read these posts from Kristen Lamb, who blogs about writing, the author business, and having a mentality to succeed. You should really read her posts to get the full impact of her arguments – “How Free is Poisoning the Internet and Killing the Creatives” and “Welcome to the Matrix: You Work For Free and There Is No Payday”, along with others, I’m sure – but here’s the gist…

Savvy Businessman Meets Idealistic Creative

She outlines how content providers (middlemen like Amazon, Apple, Huffington Post, and others) get content from the producers (authors write books and articles; performers give shows; singers produce songs) and offer that content to consumers (the mass public).

Consumers love entertainment, articles, music, etc. The businesses in the middle get paid by advertisers, so they offer a lot of content for Free.

Consumers love Free. I love free. Most of my news or research is found for free online. I love free music, and I love free books.

The sticky part comes in when the actual creators of the work need to be paid.

The Payment Model

Living Generously—Combating Our Addiction to Free — Kimia Wood

Kitty death glare…

Mrs. Lamb says the modern market is operating on an outdated model. Used to be, young, inexperienced authors/actors/singers worked internships for little or nothing…to build bridges, get their name out, and hone their skills.

What makes Mrs. Lamb see red is asking experienced, professional, and high-quality producers to do the same thing.

The Huffington Post is her whipping boy, because they openly make millions from ad revenue, but don’t pay any of their contributors for the content they place on their site. (Smart business move for them…bad deal for the writers.)

Remember: I love free articles. But I agree that making authors feel like the site is doing them a favor by using their content (without paying them to use it) is under-handed.

The Vicious Cycle

Read Mrs. Lamb’s full posts…they’re long, but there are more examples in there:

  • Performers expected to do their show pro bono at a conference because someone famous is hosting.
  • Speakers invited to workshops, but not even offered enough money to cover traveling and food expenses (because she’s supposed to teleport there, I guess).
  • Authors down-rated in a review because their debut book isn’t free, even though they’re a new author (it’s in one of the comments, but I don’t remember where).

Mrs. Lamb’s solution is author organization: authors as a body saying, “Our work is worth something, or you wouldn’t be making such a killing with it. We’re done handing it out for free; we have kids to feed and college to pay for the same as you.”

If you liked it, you should have put a ring on it

Addicted to Free

Once these articles opened my eyes, I started seeing this in other places around us. Our culture really is addicted to free…from free healthcare to free rent to free food to free education.

But generalities are hard to grasp. Let me zoom in the lens.

  • “Kelly” (our foster kids’ mom) got free rent from the state. She and her kids never picked up their wrappers, never cleaned (I’m not sure they did laundry), and didn’t know how to cook. Every time her apartment got too roach-ridden, she would move…without warning the landlord, or even bothering to pack her stuff. It was mostly all hand-outs, anyway. She never paid for any of it, so she didn’t value it.
  • A recent customer at my day job took down forty bolts of fabric to look at. Five minutes before closing. At the manager’s subtle disbelief, the customer displayed no remorse, blamed the whole thing on her daughter, acted oblivious to all the work she was putting others to, and left with her purchase without so much as a “Sorry for making such a mess” or “I’ll help put these back”. The associates were left putting away fabric for ten minutes after closing time. The lady didn’t have to pick them up, so she didn’t care (or maybe didn’t even notice)…”Entitled” is the word someone used.

We’re so disconnected from where things come from, that we don’t value them. I’m super glad I don’t have to butcher my own chickens for my casserole, or fatten my own pig for my ham…but when we don’t pay for anything with our own, hard-earned money, we don’t value it so much.

Let’s Go From Preaching to Meddling

Healthcare. I think my country’s healthcare is pretty good. At the very least, we can walk into the MRI clinic in my hometown and be served…without having to wait ten weeks like in Canada!

State-funded healthcare is just another example of how consumers have been programed to expect everything to be given to them. Even when co-pays or private clinics outside the system could help everyone seeking healthcare, we can’t imagine dipping into our own pockets for a doctor’s visit.

Living Generously

This whole issue lines up with some other things God has been teaching us recently.

A few weeks ago, our washing machine broke…and so did our dryer, the truck’s tire, and the furnace.

I started thinking, “I wonder how God’s going to provide the money for all this?”

After it was resolved, I realized, “He might have just said: You don’t need a washing machine right now.”

Let’s face it: I live a pretty cushy life. There’s a lot around here that I don’t exactly need.

But I’ve been given so much. How can I live in such a way that I hold it with an open hand?

I’m not talking about “Oh, I’m going to give X amount to charity now, because I read a sob story and feel bad about being well off.”

No. I mean a lifestyle change, an attitude change…a Holy Spirit-fueled change!

Generous on Whose Part?

So, yes, God wants us to “give what we’ve decided in our hearts, freely and without coercion” (Kimia’s paraphrase of 2 Cor. 9:7).

But He also said this part:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

—1 Tim. 5: 17-18 (ESV)

The worker is worth his pay.

The definition of “slavery” is “working, under coercion, without getting paid.” Now, there are different ways of being paid:

  • You perform your songs because it’s fun, so the experience and just having an audience are the reward.
  • You send a copy of your book to a beta reader/critique reader in exchange for feedback. Helping you grow as a writer is how they repay you.
  • You believe in helping fatherless children, so you volunteer your time as a mentor. That’s supporting something you believe in.
  • You write because you love the act of writing, and you publish on Amazon because you want to order yourself copies and just hold that gorgeous baby in your hands.
  • You love your mother and help her with chores because she needs the help, and of course you would help her.

All these are perfectly valid and worthwhile elements. But notice that every single one of them is a decision you made about your work and your compensation.

You didn’t say anything about me and my books. That’s not something you have the right to decide.

Bringing It Full Circle

This all started with an article about writers. If you, or I, want to give our work away for free…more power to us.

What gets Kristen Lamb livid is the “entitlement” of others who act like they deserve our labor and our product for nothing.

Like Apple’s streaming service offering consumers three months of free songs (until the musicians stood up for each other and said, “Not with our paycheck, you’re not”).

Or like a website I recently ran across where readers can request a book in order to review it (all for free)…but authors pay a monthly subscription to host their books.

I get it – websites take money to host. And a review is kind of a compensation (though the government won’t let you “give” anything “in exchange for” a review). Before I read Mrs. Lamb’s blog posts, I probably wouldn’t have thought about it.

But now it occurs to me that this is exactly upside down to how it “should” be.

In Soviet Russia, authors pay for you to read books…

Recognize the Value We Provide

Entertainment is a valuable product…otherwise, people wouldn’t be so eager to consume it. There’s nothing wrong in letting the actual creators of this product enjoy the fruits of their labor (in the form of paychecks).

“Nothing wrong”? How about: “It’d be a good thing”!

(Obviously, if nobody wants to read Joe Someone’s book, that’s not our problem. We shouldn’t pay for t-shirts we don’t even own! But if everyone is crazy about Joe’s book, then we should totally pay Joe for his book – and not get it off that piracy site instead!)

Living Generously—Combating Our Addiction to Free — Kimia WoodNot only will paying for things benefit our attitude, but they might even lead to more content.

If authors and entertainers work their butts off but never get enough money to put food on the table, eventually some of them (if not most of them) will give up and do something else. Imagine a world without TV shows, movies, or new books and songs…

However, if we “vote with our money” on the stories and artists we like the most, that will encourage those creators to make even more content! Like a series of books? Writing the author an encouraging note never hurts…but monetary incentive wouldn’t be misplaced, either 🙂

Let the Change Affect Me

Well, all these elements started me on some hard decisions. To live more deliberately, and more generously, I’m going to consider some changes:

Towards Other People

  • If I like a song enough to look up the music video on YouTube…maybe I also like it enough to actually buy it from the actual artist? (Or even buy the whole CD?!?)
  • If I enjoy a free book and want to support the author, maybe I can do more than write a review…maybe I can buy one of their other books and read it, too?

Towards My Own Work

  • I work hard on my projects, and it shows in their quality. Even though I’m content for my writing to not be my main income, I don’t want to feed this vicious cycle.
  • Giving my work away for free trains people to crave FREE FREE FREE. It reinforces the whole paradigm we struggled with above. And I’m no longer convinced it gets more people to actually read my work.
  • It breaks my heart to charge for my work, because I know how much I love FREE and don’t want to be a hypocrite. But I also don’t want to be part of the further degradation of the market as a whole.
  • Besides, I think I personally have reached the point of Decreasing Marginal Returns with free ebooks. Used to be, I snapped them up left and right. Now, it’s no longer an automatic “Add to Cart”…probably because I’ve decided I should actually read them if I get them.
  • Finally…MY BOOKS ARE WORTH IT! The written word is a subjective product (unlike, say, a t-shirt), but I’ve gotten enough feedback from enough different people that it’s not just me talking…I’M A GOOD WRITER. And there’s no shame in charging money for my product!

And maybe, just maybe, charging money will make any reader who takes a chance on me value my books more than they otherwise would.

Maybe they’ll read them…and review them…and tell all their friends…and have fun in the worlds I’ve created.

Will the Change Affect You?

This isn’t just about how much I love free stuff. This is about acknowledging the value of people’s time and labor.

This is about valuing one another…being grateful for what we have…and generously saying, “I don’t need all this.”

What hard decisions will you be led to? How can you “live generously” in a world driven by FREE?

Will you take a hard look at the costs of our culture…and dare to do something about your part of it? (Not someone else’s part – yours.)


Living Generously—Combating Our Addiction to Free — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring novelist, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, gaming, writing, hobby-farming…and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! (Yeah, I know…it’s still free.) You’ll also receive occasional updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Or visit the book page to see what cool new stuff she’s working on!

Author Newsletters–A Survey

Author Newsletters–A Survey — Kimia Wood

Blank stares do not equal book sales…

Marketing gurus will advise you to have an author newsletter. This keeps your fans engaged with your brand, updated on your latest works, and excited about your books.

Supposedly. But does it actually work?

I have no experience being a successful newsletter author. But I am a pretty experienced newsletter reader. So I thought I would go through the many newsletters I myself am subscribed to, and consider the elements of each.

What makes me more engaged with an author and their books? What turns me off? Well, fortunately I never delete my emails, because I was able to wade through several years’ worth of other authors’ newsletters, and draw some conclusions about my own habits.

This is obviously very personalized, but I think we can draw a couple broad lessons from this research:

TL;DR: Three Lessons to Keep in Mind

1) Giving away free stuff is an awesome pull to make people sign up, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to sales.

For years, I’ve been told that giving away a free book to people who sign up for your list is one of the best tricks in the business, and “the number one way to build your subscriber list”. But is this true?

I was pretty convicted by something Barb Drozdowich said in a recent #BookMarketingChat (on Twitter):


I know this is true, because it’s true of me. If you offer me free food, free t-shirt, free books, I’ll love it…but I get angry when people charge more that four or five dollars for an ebook. (Seriously…some people charge as much as ten dollars for an ebook novel. What insanity is that?!)

So, while you/we might get lots of “numbers” on our list with a strategy of bribery, are we attracting the clientele that will want to buy? Or do we have a strategy to convert the freebie-seekers into devoted, paying customers?

2) Personal rapport can make or break a brand.

Kristen Lamb can tell you that your “brand” is just how people view you and your product – or, the emotional reaction they have when they see your name.

McDonalds. Steven King. Doctor Strange.

I bet just those simple words communicate a lot, and you have some kind of emotional reaction to each one.

When you go on social media, your blog, your website, etc., people watch you. Maybe one day you snap at someone on Facebook…People see that. Even if you were stressed out that day, and aren’t normally rude like that, and the guy totally deserved it anyway – that single instance might form a large percentage of someone’s perception of you.

You’ll see below that I subscribed to some of these author lists because I “met” the author in some other context, liked who I perceived them to be, and wanted to give them that support (and stay in the loop about their projects).

For a couple other authors, their personality or their writing are so far from my cup of tea that I will never give them my business.

Not anybody’s fault, really. We just “aren’t made for each other.”

3) Connection is potential.

The ideal, of course, is a passionate fan who will buy all your books in hard copies (the better to treasure), tell all their friends about your books, and pounce on every newsletter hoping it contains good news about a new thing to read.

Compared to that, a lurker who sometimes, maybe opens the email and skims for pretty cover images isn’t that impressive.

But it’s a foot in the door.

You’ll notice that some of the authors below don’t send out consistent emails, or I wonder why I don’t unsubscribe because we really don’t have that much in common.

But as long as I’m still subscribed, we have a connection. It’s really depressing when only one or two people open your newsletters (and it’s your parents!) but at least there’s a chance.

Maybe one day they’ll be weeding through their inbox and say, “Oh, what is this? Maybe I’ll read it and find out…”

Or, even if an author’s normal genre isn’t for me, maybe they’ll branch out into [sci fi spy/murder mysteries with something-about-a-long-lost-brother] (fill in your own blank), and I’ll go hmmm…oooohh.

The EvidenceAuthor Newsletters–A Survey — Kimia Wood

In the following survey, I have included how I subscribed to the list, a brief summary of their brand and my relationship to them, and other details like where they host their email (hosting email on your official author domain is more professional than a free email address, just as having an official author website is more professional than just an Amazon Author Page, for example; another thing to keep in mind as we evaluate authors’ brands).

And now, if you really care to wade through the raw data…my case studies: Continue reading

Unforeseen Consequences of “Economic Abuse”?

I just learned that Great Britain is working to include “economic abuse” in its anti-domestic abuse law (thanks to this article from Public Radio International).Unforeseen Consequences of "Economic Abuse" — Kimia Wood

Domestic abuse is nothing to joke about, or shrug off. But this new step concerns me on a number of levels.

For one thing, physical abuse against spouses is already illegal (at least here in the U.S. – I assume it would at least fall under assault and battery across the pond). Is adding this new category to the equation really worth it? What benefits will we gain…and what might we lose?

First, “financial abuse” is a nebulous term that’s hard to define. Second, focusing on these varied abuses seems to assume that women are victims – not masters of their own fate – and need protection from abuse. (I say “women” specifically because the example used in the article is a woman, and the main thrust of these abuse movements are to protect women. But we all know that men can be abused as well.) Lastly, if we admit that women are at risk and need protection, who should those protectors be? Their immediate family and friends, who know them, know their significant other, and know the emotional make-up that attracted them to each other? Or some third party, like a loan officer (whose business is money), who has no vested interest in the woman beyond being a “good neighbor” (and abiding by the law)?

What Does “Economic Abuse” Even Mean?

Just how do we define “financial abuse”? Do we really want the government inserting itself into the intimate give-and-take of married life?

Spouses are supposed to communicate, argue, cooperate, and work through the struggles of life as a unified team. Some couples do better at it than others do, but that’s just life.

Can the government really understand (let alone referee) this complex relationship?

In the original article referenced above, an interviewed woman (called “Anna”) describes her own experiences of so-called “economic abuse”:

She says her husband forced her to co-sign a loan to cover the bank fees, against her will. That loan left her saddled with debt after their marriage ended. He never paid any of it.

(By the way, why was she still responsible for the debt after the divorce? Couldn’t she – or her attorney – have said that the loan was made on behalf of her husband, and that the husband should be responsible for paying it back? We already have systems in place to help situations like this…do we really need another law on top of it?)

Anyway, we agree that abusing shared credit cards, or abandoning co-loans with your spouse, is mean and bad. But it doesn’t always look the same to different people. Continue reading

Karpman Triangle or Christian Allegory?

Karpman Triangle or Christian Allegory?

I recently read a post talking about “Karpman’s drama triangle” – a theory that story characters arrange themselves into Hero, Victim, or Villain roles – and how this had a negative effect on stories and society. (It’s under Point 8.)

The post writer suggested making sure all characters had “agency” – or meaningful choice – within the story. This is important, as far as it goes…personal responsibility for actions is very important.

However, when I first heard her explain “Karpman’s drama triangle”, I said to myself, “Isn’t that exactly what we see in the Bible? Don’t stories follow this pattern so often because we’re resonating with the eternal story of creation?”

The Triangle of History

This triangle, as I understood it, talked about how someone would require rescuing, so someone else would rise to rescue him.

This is what we see in the Bible.Karpman Triangle or Christian Allegory? — Kimia Wood

We are in trouble. Deep trouble. Classic damsel-in-distress type stuff.

We (humanity) were born into a perfect world…but then the Villain struck! Yep – us, again.

(I didn’t say “Satan”, because that gives him too much cred. The world didn’t break because Satan disobeyed God…the whole universe broke because Adam disobeyed God! Thanks, Great-Granddad…)

So here we are (each individual human being), playing the Villain role (taking up arms against God and hurting things wherever we go) and the Victim role (hurting ourselves at every turn, and totally helpless to fix ourselves).

There’s nothing we can do to change this state of affairs. Nada. Trust me, humans have been trying for thousands upon thousands of years. We can’t patch up our relationship with God, and we can’t free ourselves from our own evil desires…just like addiction.

The whole human race is addicted to badness.

Enter: the Hero! Jesus. Son of God. Totally awesome, Lawful Good, and kick-butt (can I say that?!).

He humbled Himself, went through the famous “Dark Night of the Soul“, all that classic Hero stuff…literally died. Was dead for three days.

Then? Happily ever after! Jesus kicked death in the face and came alive again!

With the “dragon” slain, the “prince” “rode up on his horse” and asked the “damsel” if she would marry him!

So…will you say “I do”?

It’s not just the overarching story of salvation, either.

God cares about individual widows, too. Check out Deuteronomy 14 (yes Deuteronomy):

God is telling Israel about tithing – giving a tenth of your grain, your fruit, your wine, your produce to God so you remember that He gave you everything.

Then God tells them, every three years pile the tithe food in the middle of the city and let the widows, orphans, and foreigners (with no land inheritance, family network, etc.) eat their fill from it (Deut. 14:28-29).

See? Yes, God cares about rescuing his Church (Bride)…but He also cares about the “helpless” widows and orphans – the “victims” of unavoidable tragedy who don’t have the resources to help themselves.

He cares, and that’s why He commands His people to act as “heroes” in His name, extending aid to those worse off than ourselves.

Want an example from the New Testament? How about James 1:27? James’ theme is that talking the talk is worthless unless you walk the walk. (You say you believe in God? Super. The demons believe the same thing – and have the sense to be afraid of Him! Js. 2:19.)

That’s why James points out that God wants us to act out the faith we say we have by: being a “hero” to the “helpless”…the weak, tired, and alone. The “victims” of this sin-scorched world. (The “villain” being: ourselves again.)

Back to the Psychologists

Karpman wasn’t talking about God, though. He was a psychologist, trying to explain human relationships and human behavior through “Science!”.

And he’s right about one thing. When human beings try to mimic the role of God (Hero), we mess even that up.

Karpman and his friends called it things like “encouraging dependency”, “ignoring their own problems by focusing on helping others”, “taking advantage of the rescuer”, “perpetuating the victim’s feelings of helplessness”, and other things.

All of which is trying to turn something organic (a relationship) into something algorithmic (turning human interactions into a series of equations – which they’re not).

I think the Bible says it all much more succinctly:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food…she took some and ate, and gave to her husband, and he ate. And the eyes of both were opened, and they saw that they were naked. (Gen. 3: 6-7)

There is none righteous – no, not one! No one understands…no one seeks for God! (Rom. 3: 10-11)

For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace which is ours in Christ Jesus! (see Rom. 3: 21-24)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… (Rev. 21: 1)

Back to the Story Authors

Karpman Triange or Christian Allegory? — Kimia Wood

Image credit: destinypedia

I think I’ve figured out why I get all swoony over the Master Chief and Zavala (and Genos!). Because they are quintessential heroes – the definitive “good guys” – and in that way they mimic my own dear King Jesus.

So, I will proudly write stories about heroes rescuing…people who need rescuing. But I agree with the original poster that “character agency” is also very important.

After all, we got ourselves in this mess. No sneaky Devil forced us off the cliff of our own desires! We raced there all on our own, because we wanted what we couldn’t possibly have: to be God.

It also makes sense that Character Agency is important because God gave it to us! When a story denies characters agency, or denies them the reality of making bad choices or choices that matter, the story falls flat…because we instinctively know it doesn’t line up with our real experiences.

God doesn’t let us write the story, though. He is the Author of this interactive, choose-your-own-adventure we call “life”! We participate, but only within the bounds that He allows (Job 1:12, 2:6).

And this is where the sovereignty of God (fancy, church-word for “God’s the boss-man”) and free-will (not-so-fancy church-word for “we get a choice”) come together and hug and all the theologians go, “But I thought you two weren’t speaking to each other!”

Yes – God is totally in charge. AND – yes, each individual human being gets a choice in how their life will go.

How does that work? God hasn’t explained in detail…probably because our brains would explode if we tried to understand.

Just trust God that it works.

And keep trying to write stories and show how FULLY AWESOME He is…because that’s what it’s all about, m’kay?


Karpman Triangle or Christian Allegory? — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

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