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Moved to a new static site

With the passing of Spencer, this site’s author, this site has been converted to a new static site, which will preserve the text and image content, but will remove any dynamic elements such as the contact form. If you notice any errors in this site which were not previously present, please email webmaster at truthchallenge dot one (substituting “at” and “dot” with their symbolic representations to form a proper email address).

In Memory of Spencer Gear

Spencer, the author of this site, passed away on Tuesday 2023-06-06 due to complications from a fall; he had recently passed his 77th birthday. His family thanks all of the dedicated aged and health care staff who cared for him in his final years, especially those at Bolton Clarke Fernhill and Caboolture Hospital.

Spencer’s funeral will be held on Saturday 2023-06-17 at 13:00 (1 pm, Australian Eastern Standard Time) at City Heart Presbyterian Church, 13 Hasking St, Caboolture QLD 4510. For those unable to attend in person, a live stream will be available at:

Please do not send flowers. If you would like to remember Spencer through a gift, a donation in his memory to one of his favourite charities such as Compassion Australia or Barnabas Aid would be appreciated.

Please let us know if you are planning to attend the funeral, for catering purposes. If you are unable to attend but would like to send greetings for the funeral, feel free to send those as well. For either of these purposes, please use the contact form on this web site.

Why are young people not coming to the traditional church? An apology for reaching young people

(photo courtesy freely photos)

By Spencer D Gear

Why are 20-year-olds not responding to the Gospel and coming to church?” This was the provocative question asked by Rev. John Roth[1] in his Good Friday sermon in 2008. The following was my email response to his question with a few additions.

Many years ago J. Gresham Machen (d. 1937) wrote a booklet, “Christianity and Culture.”  I don’t have the booklet (which is only 15 pages) but I am reading quotes from this book in William Lane Craig’s, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics.  Machen wrote, “The chief obstacle to the Christian religion to-day lies in the sphere of the intellect. . .  The Church is perishing to-day through the lack of thinking, not through an excess of it” (Machen p. 13, in Craig, p. xv).

William Lane Craig is one of the foremost evangelical apologists in the world today.  He is addressing intellectual issues of our day.  See his homepage HERE.  Some of Craig’s debates and articles are HERE.

Craig states the following that, I think, addresses some of the problems in engaging 20-year-olds today:

Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral.  As Christians, their minds are going to waste.  One result of this is an immature, superficial faith. . .  They know little of the riches of deep understanding of Christian truth, of the confidence inspired by the discovery that one’s faith is logical and fits the facts of experience. . .  If Christian laymen don’t become intellectually engaged, then we are in serious danger of losing our children.  In high school and college Christian teenagers are intellectually assaulted on every hand by a barrage of anti-Christian philosophies and attitudes.  As I speak in churches around the country, I continually meet parents whose children have left the faith because there was no one in the church to answer their questions.  For the sake of our youth, we desperately need informed parents who are equipped to wrestle with the issues at an intellectual level (William Lane Craig 1994, Reasonable Faith, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, p. xv).

I know how destitute I was in 1984 when I was pursuing doctoral studies in the USA at university and the professor said to me in front of the class when I questioned a theory: “Your views are b-s” (and he didn’t abbreviate).  From that very moment I have spent a lot of time equipping myself to defend the Christian faith against challenges to the faith.  My churches did not equip me to do that.  They should be doing it on the basis of Eph. 4:12.

Then we have to counter the trash from some pulpits and the mass media.  Did you read the anti-biblical challenge from within the church from clergy such as the Rev. Dr. John Evans, Uniting Church minister at Church of All nations, Carlton (Melbourne) “Ditch Good Friday as holiday.”[2] Then there is the heretical material coming from people such as John Shelby Spong, Barbara Thiering, John Dominic Crossan and the Jesus Seminar.

Therefore, I suggest that we are not reaching 20-year-olds (and others), because we are not answering the questions they ask about God, the world, and even in spiritual matters.  How can we overcome this problem?   These are my suggestions:

1.  Equip the people in our churches to be defenders of the faith.  Surely we have examples of this approach with Paul at Athens (Acts 17:16ff) in reasoning in the synagogue with Jews, devout persons and in the market place with those who happened to be there (v. 17), as well as Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (v. 18).  Then we have Paul on the Areopagus (Acts 17:22ff) addressing one of the issues of the day, “To an unknown god.”  We don’t seem to be doing this much today.  In fact, I don’t know of any church locally that has an outreach ministry of apologetics that is answering the questions 20-year-olds and others are asking.

2.  We have resources by the droves to help pastors and teachers to equip God’s people for ministries of apologetics.  William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Norman Geisler, John W. Montgomery, Winfried Corduan, John Frame, Cornelius van Til, R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner, Craig Evans, Gary Habermas, Douglas Groothuis, Douglas Geivett, N. T. Wright and others have helped me with answers to the questions of our day.

3.  As we equip God’s people in apologetics, have focus groups where young people gather: high schools, universities, skate parks, etc.  In fact we have an ideal opportunity to do this in high school with RI in Qld (religious instruction, but there are limitations here).  I don’t see it being done.  We could ask high school teens questions such as these?

a. Do you believe in God?  If not, why not?  What is stopping a teen from believing in God?  Explore this in open, honest discussion.  Most lay people teaching RE are not equipped to do this.

b. Why is there so much evil in the world?  How can your good God allow genocide and even contribute to it in the time of Noah?

c. What’s the big deal about God?  Why even bother with him?

d. That religious stuff in the Bible is unbelievable (raising the dead and casting out demons’ crap – that’s what a person said to me).

e. In the world of science, can Bible stuff be believed?

f. I’m living alright without God.  Why even bother with him?

4.  Then we have outreach to address these needs with mass media advertising—even use the classifieds in newspapers and billboards.

5. I engage with atheists on Christian Forums on the Internet, to try to reach them, but also to help sharpen my skills and answer their penetrating questions.  One of them stated:

    • Please show me where your religion counts as proof. Can you prove that babies are aware of sin or not?
    • Some things are wrong regardless if they are sins or not. Sin is only an action contrary to religion.
    • Sin doesn’t equal wrong. Sin is contrary to religion. For example genocide is wrong regardless of religion. Gay marriage is not wrong regardless of religion.
    • Your religious laws do not apply.
    • Personhood is not proof of god. Nature is not proof of god.
    • Anyone, even a creator, who creates beings, gives them free will and then commits genocide on them if they disobey is a TYRANT. Sentient beings are different than an object. As soon as people had free will then they were not owned by god. God cannot do as he sees fit. If he kills them then he is a tyrant.
    • Using the bible to prove your point is meaningless to me. Your bible means nothing to me. Sin is an action contrary to a religion. If a person doesn’t follow your religion then they are not sinning (by your religion).

Image result for photo Francis Schaeffer public domain

(photograph, Francis Schaeffer, courtesy Domain for Truth)

6.  Francis Schaeffer did this kind of thing magnificently.  We all don’t have the gifts of Schaeffer, but we all must engage secular young people and others to begin to answer their penetrating questions.  When we start to do this, I think that the young may begin to take notice of Jesus, God and the church.  To this point, most of our answers are stereotypically Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, etc. However, if we are to engage our culture and attract young people, it will mean outreach activities with a sharp apologetic edge. How long is it since you, as a pastor, were engaged in a debate (either public or in your church) with a local young adult? We have a local university. Why debate one of its students on a hot topic for the young? What about debating topics such as the following?

    • Why does vandalism attract young people?
    • The truth about illicit drugs.
    • Why does premarital sex not make sense?
    • The abortion death squad.
    • How to make marriage work.
    • Why defacto relationships don’t work.

7.  Please understand that I am NOT advocating a seeker-sensitive contemporary approach to marketing Christianity.  Take a listen to what Bill Hybels thinks of the very model that he helped to invent and promote with vigour. Hybels, one of the seeker-sensitive church gurus has made this confession:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back, it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for (“Willow Creek Repents,” (Christianity Today, 18 October 2007)

After 30 years of promoting seeker-sensitive programs and investing millions of dollars in the venture, he says:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own (“Willow Creek Repents,” Christianity Today, 18 October 2007).

What I’m suggesting is vastly different from that.

8. However, I am of the view that a church can have solid biblical lyrics in its songs without maintaining a hymn style of 2-3 centuries ago. I was raised on traditional hymns but that does not reach today’s generation. We could sing the great hymns of the faith accompanied by contemporary instruments rather than be anchored in another era of a pipe organ, electronic organ or piano. You can still have guitars and percussion in your music, maintain a moderate level of sound, and sing songs of substance biblically.

9. Too much that comes from our pulpits does not answer the questions that people are asking.  We can begin to do this by application in our sermons. Why not address topics like these?

    • How can I believe in God with so much suffering in the world?
    • Surely it’s arrogant to believe that there is only one way to the best of life after death.
    • What makes Jesus different from Muhammad?
    • Too much of Christianity is unseen. We live in a scientific age that requires empirical support.
    • Many within the church say the Bible is myth. Is it or is it not? Can you trust the Bible?
    • Who made God?
    • How can I believe in God when there are so many hypocrites in the church?
    • What can we do about the march of militant Islam?

There is another dimension to why the church might not be attracting all people, including 20-year-olds:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Tim. 3:1-5 ESV)

These are some thoughts from a believer who is also concerned over why we are not reaching all people, especially the young.

Appendix A

Ditch Good Friday as holiday: cleric[3]

March 20, 2008 – 2:32PM

Sydney Morning Herald

Good Friday should be dumped as a public holiday and replaced with a national reconciliation day recognising Aborigines as integral to Australia’s identity, a Melbourne cleric says.

The Reverend John Evans, the Uniting Church Minister at the Church of All Nations in Carlton, said Good Friday had lost its religious significance outside the Christian community.

He also said Australia was becoming a more multicultural, multifaith society and having Good Friday as a public holiday may no longer be appropriate.

Dr Evans applauded Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s public apology as a major step towards reconciliation, but said a day such as Good Friday should be set aside to mark the recent steps forward.

“We have done a great thing with the national apology but when you look at our public holidays there are no public holidays that recognise the role and place of Aborigines as the first people of this land,” he said.

Dr Evans said any day, not just Good Friday, could be suitable for a national reconciliation day.

The exact day should be put to the Aboriginal community, he said.

In a statement released today, Dr Evans said: “Whether Good Friday is a public holiday or not will not change or challenge the day’s significance. In fact, in the place of Good Friday, there should be a national holiday to mark our endeavours towards Aboriginal reconciliation.”

When asked about the statement, Dr Evans said: “That would be the gift that I would be prepared to make, that if the only way we could get a public holiday for national day of reconciliation is that it’s Good Friday, I’d be for it.”

He said Good Friday would not lose its name or significance as a result.

“We will never not have Good Friday. The question is should it be a public holiday,” he said.

“And I would welcome it to be a public holiday but I would also observe that it is not being treated as a holy day.”

Dr Evans said a national reconciliation day fits in with the message of Easter, which he said was about reconciliation between individuals, God and each other.

But Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, Christopher Prowse said despite the importance of reconciliation it would be inappropriate to have such a day on Good Friday.

“Aboriginal issues are very important for Australia, however the Good Friday observance has a different focus and that focus should not be deflected by other issues, however important.”

But another day could be set aside for reconciliation, he said.



[1] Rev. John Roth was the pastor of Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church, Denman’s Camp Road, Hervey Bay 4655, Australia. It was in his Good Friday sermon on 21 March 2008.

[2] See Appendix A.

[3] Available from: [21 March 2008].


Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 January 2018.


God and Gambling

Gambling Help

(image courtesy Queensland Government)

Spencer D. Gear

We live in an age in which Australian State governments promote poker machines, the TAB, Lotto & Scratchies as a means of “entertainment”. Thoughtful Christians may ask: “Does God support gambling? Is it OK to gamble and believe in the authority of Scripture?”

The pastor of a church I once attended said to two of his parishioners who spent quite a bit of time and money on the pokies, “That’s fine as long as you don’t let the poker machines control you.”

I was doing some blogging when a sceptical person asked, “What does the Bible say about gambling, if anything?”[1] Others have left the gambling issue open for Christians because of the “casting of lots” examples in the Bible.

Australia’s love affair with gambling

Australia has a love affair with gambling. Almost 21% percent of the world’s pokies are in Australia.[2] For most people, gambling is a pleasurable activity. Sadly for some, it has become an addiction that they cannot tame.

Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has stated, “I hate poker machines and I know something of their impact on families.”[3] Former premier of Queensland, Wayne Goss, whose party introduced poker machines to that state, has been doing some rethinking. He told the Brisbane Courier-Mail, “I wish I’d never brought in poker machines, I think they’re a scourge. . . The problem with poker machines in my view is that the people who mainly play them are the people who can least afford to do so. I wish I hadn’t done it.”[4]

Gambling devours people’s savings and hopes at an astonishing rate. The BBC reported that “more than 80% of its [Australia’s] adult population gambles, the highest rate on the planet”[5] and 40% of these play at least once a week.[6] The majority of them seem to gamble with self control.

However it is estimated that about 2% of the population, about 330,000 Australians, have a severe or moderate problem gambling habit. Of that number, for “about 70 per cent, their major activity is poker machines.”[7]

Associated with gambling addiction is an increased level of suicidal thoughts and actions. The Wesley Mission reported that

up to 60% of problem gamblers will experience some level of suicidal thought. This may be vague (often after major losses), or serious intent with a clear plan. It is also common for clients to have had one or more failed suicide attempts.[8]

A survey in the USA in 1995 found that 20% of compulsive gamblers had attempted suicide and 63% had seriously considered suicide. These figures are 50 times higher than “within lifetime” estimates for the general population.[9]

Australians spend more on gambling than they do on food.[10] In the financial year 2006-2007, Australians spent almost $91.5 million on food. That’s about $4,350 each for the year according to Bureau of Statistics figures.

However, in the previous year, 2005-06, gaming industry figures showed that adults spent $148 million on gambling. That’s an average of $9,491 each spent on gambling, which includes figures from tourists.[11] Of total expenditure, we spent 61% more on gambling than we did on food.

How much of this gambling money goes to the venue? “The average actual gaming ‘profit’ (before tax) is about a tenth of turnover.” [12]

Two people shared an $80 million Powerball jackpot in July 2009 in Australia.[13]

There are social effects of gambling. One estimate was that for each person who engages in excessive gambling, 5-10 other people around them are affected.[14]

How does this Australian love affair with gambling fit in with a Christian view of gambling? Since 80% of adults gamble and 40% do it weekly, do you think that Christians will be exempt from considering gambling as a viable option for extra cash and for entertainment? This could be a special attraction in these tough economic times.

Casting lots and gambling

Does the Bible’s use of the “casting of lots” provide a precedent for Christians to practise responsible gambling?

What was involved in the practice of casting lots? We know that it was a way of determining the will of God in the Old Testament primarily. The exact method that was used is not clearly defined in the Old Testament.

Some scholars believe that the Urim and Thummim (Ex. 28:30; Deut. 33:8; Ezra 2:63) were the objects involved using

small round pebbles, which were placed in the ephod of the high priest. One signified “Yes,” and the other, “No.” When the priest reached blindly into the ephod and took out one stone, the question was answered either affirmatively or negatively by the stone which he found in his hand.[15]

The problem with this explanation is that there are OT passages that indicate the casting of lots was used for other important decisions. These included

    • for Aaron’s choosing the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:7-10, 21-22);
    • division of the land of Pal after the conquest (Josh. 14:2; 18:6; 1 Chron. 6:5ff);
    • service of the Temple including the music and doorkeepers (I Chron. 25:7-8; 26:13ff);
    • supply of wood for the altar (Neh. 10:34ff);
    • the guilt of suspected criminals (Josh. 7:14; 1 Sam. 14:42).[16]

The principle underlying these actions is stated in Prob. 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

Let’s briefly look at a sample of the use of lots in Scripture.

In Numbers 26:52-56, the Lord told Moses to divide the land for an inheritance, using the casting of lots. This was also the case with Eleazer and Joshua and the land on the west side of the Jordan River where the inheritance was distributed by lots (Joshua 14:2; 18:6; 19:51). The cities and pastures were given to the Levites by the casting of lots (Josh. 21:8).

In Psalm 22:18, the Messianic prediction was, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (ESV).[17] This was fulfilled at the death of Christ and recorded in Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34 and John 19:24. Was this a chance happening and an example of gambling that could justify our use of poker machines and other sorts of gambling today?

To decide on a replacement apostle for Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:26 states, “And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” Was this a biblical example that could be used to support gambling in the 21st century at the race track, in casinos, at poker machine venues, on Scratchies and the Lotto?

Other examples of the casting of lots are in passages such as I Sam. 10:20-21 and I Chron. 24:5; 26:13-14. Henlee Barnette noted,

The casting of lots was a means of ascertaining the will of God. It should be noted that after Judas’ successor was chosen by lot, this method was not employed again by the church. Decisions thereafter were made in relation to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.[18]

However, the modern concept of gambling by transferring something of worth (generally money) from one person to another based on chance is not supported by the Scriptures (see below). The 21st century concept of gambling at the TAB, casino, pokies or on Powerball is foreign to biblical thinking.

The Bible does not support games of chance

five colored dice by mariotomo - five dice in four colors


I cannot locate a Scripture which states, “Thou shalt not gamble,” but the concepts of chance, luck and fortune should not be in a biblical world and life view. Support for gambling as we understand it today is foreign to the Scriptures for these reasons:

1. The Christian view of godliness

According to Matthew 6:33, believers are to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things [material things] will be added to you.” We are exhorted to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). How is it possible to use gambling for help with daily necessities and still rely on God to supply our needs?

2. The Christian view of work

Ephesians 4:28 says: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Could it be said that the modern concept of gambling, reaping many dollars for a small investment, is akin to stealing from others – legally? The Christian work ethic is one of labouring with one’s own hands or abilities to raise money or goods to maintain one’s individual life and family, and to share with those in need. Receiving $40 million as a gambling jackpot for spending only a few dollars sounds more like a “rip-off” of other people than an honest day’s work. But, of course, it is all done legally and governments receive their share of the “rip-off.”

3. The Christian view of stewardship

Hebrews 13:5 states that believers are to “keep your life free from love of money and be content with what you have, for he said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” This is in contrast to the ones seeking big bucks from all sorts of gambling, with the investment of an infinitesimal amount.

The gambler seems to be like the greedy person. What is the biblical view of greed? The greedy are “the unrighteous who will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9). But there is good news for the greedy. They can be redeemed by being washed by the blood of Jesus, justified and sanctified. “Such were some of you,” said Paul of the greedy (I Cor. 6:11).

The common jargon these days is that gambling is supposed to be for fun – entertainment. Second Timothy 3:4-5 warns us that Christians are not to be “lovers of pleasure.” Instead they are to be “lovers of God.” Those who love pleasure are to be avoided (v. 5).

4. The Christian view of love for your neighbours and enemies

Jesus told us, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). How can we as Christians truly love our enemies (Matt. 5:44) while we contribute to taking money away from them? Approximately half of the revenue at poker machine venues in Australia comes from problem gamblers according to the Productivity Commission Report in 1999. How can we justify gambling when it is causing devastation to the individual and 5-10 other people associated with the problem gambler?[19]

5. How the Christian views his/her influence on others

How can Christians be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-14) while greedily wanting big bucks and ripping others off – legally, of course – through 21st century-style gambling? How can you “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt. 22:39) while at the same time taking money from him/her through gambling?

Biblical Christianity promotes the view of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), which is a life-style that, it seems to me, is impossible to reconcile with a 21st century approach to gambling that is promoted by governments.

6. Luck and fortune are not part of God’s kingdom

Isaiah 65:11-12 warns:

But you who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you to the sword . . . You did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in.

Luck, chance and fortune are not in God’s worldview. Neither should they be in ours. These are essential to the gambling kingdom! Christians should set a godly example and not participate in any games of chance.

Pastors and churches that approve of gambling should be called back to biblical Christianity.

What about the “good” that gambling does?

Pollock to Hussey.jpg

Cricket: Bowler to batsman (courtesy Wikipedia)

When I first uploaded this article, a person responded, “There is a lot of good done from  gambling too.”[20] How do we respond to what seems to be a valid point?

About the only “good” things I see coming from gambling in Australia are:[21]

  • Cheaper meals at the clubs and pubs (subsidised by the massive income from pokies);
  • The Community Benefit Fund, Queensland,[22] which in my view is conscience money offering up to $30,000 one-off grants to not-for-profit organisations;
  • Sports’ clubs & sporting fields linked to some clubs.

Perhaps some would say that the revenue gained by governments from gambling provides a “good” result in general revenue that provides for the government services.

But the harm far outweighs the benefits.  I have counselled problem gamblers as a professional counsellor and not one of them has gambled with money that was responsible use of his/her resources.  They have drained bank accounts, maxed out credit card limits, hocked household goods, stolen from anybody including employers, and helped to destroy families.

A response could be: “That’s only for a very small number of the Australian population, 2% of the adult population – 330,000 people.[23] For most people, gambling is fun and entertainment and they do not abuse themselves or their families.”

Why should this “good” ethic of gambling be rejected? I do not support this utilitarian approach to ethics, the end justifies the means, for these reasons:
The Christian deontological ethic means:

    • The rule determines the result;
    • The rule is the basis of every ethical act;
    • The rule is always good, no matter what the result;
    • The result is always calculated within the boundaries of the rules.

By contrast, with the teleological ethic of utilitarianism:

    • The result determines the rule;
    • The result is the basis of every ethical act;
    • The rule is always good because of the result;
    • The result is sometimes used to break the rules.

Within genuinely Christian ethics, the results are all within the rules or norms (the absolutes of Scripture).  Thus, no end result (the “good” that gambling does) can be used as a justification for breaking God’s law.
As I state in this article, God’s moral law contains rules of:

    • God’s norm of godliness;
    • God’s norm of work;
    • God’s norm of stewardship;
    • God’s norm of loving both your friends and enemies;
    • God’s norm of Christians being the light of the world & the salt of the earth;
    • God’s norm that luck and fortune are not part of kingdom values;


Australia has a love affair with gambling that is making millions of dollars for governments. The Queensland state government expected to earn about $578 million from gambling in the 2008-09 financial year.[25]

These figures for gambling in Australia are mind boggling for money spent, taxes received by governments, and hard done to some users of the product:

More than half of the $23 billion that local punters gambled away last year [2014-2015] was sunk into slot machines. While most countries restrict gambling to casinos and betting shops, Australia permits it in hotels, sports clubs and RSLs. Accounting for less than 0.5 per cent of the world’s population, the nation is home to a fifth of the world’s slot machines (Scott & Heath 2016).

Scott & Heath indicate that about 400 Australians a year commit suicide because of gambling-related problems.

The casting of lots has no parallel with contemporary gambling. Lots were used sovereignly by the Lord to determine some decisions, but this principle stopped with the choosing of Judas Iscariot’s replacement as an apostle.

Dr. Peel rightly states that

all forms of gambling involve gain to the few and loss to the many without the creation of any real product or benefit, save perhaps a questionable thrill. The promoters and managers have to appeal to the sinful motivation of covetousness in order to make it repay their own very often considerable investment. Gambling violates the principle of fair return for labor and investment, and the ethics of stewardship and work (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:9-12). Gambling also can lead to neglect of family responsibilities, a grievous sin in the eyes of God (1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Cor. 12:14).[26]

There are many good reasons for not gambling. These include the Christian views of godliness, work ethic, stewardship, loving our neighbours, the manner in which we should influence others, and the Bible’s condemnation of anything to do with chance.

I know that it is possible for a person to be generous, love his or her neighbour more than himself or herself and trust the sovereignty of God in “casting of lots”. However, human beings are too easily drawn to covetousness and dishonesty when gambling is involved.

Are you committed to ripping off people or building them up?

One of the fundamental principles of biblical Christianity that gives a knockout blow to gambling is, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Australia has a love affair with gambling that is making millions of dollars for governments. The Queensland state government expected to earn about $578 million from gambling in the 2008-09 financial year.[25] 

The casting of lots has no parallel with contemporary gambling. Lots were used sovereignly by the Lord to determine some decisions, but this principle stopped with the choosing of Judas Iscariot’s replacement as an apostle.

Dr. Peel rightly states that

all forms of gambling involve gain to the few and loss to the many without the creation of any real product or benefit, save perhaps a questionable thrill. The promoters and managers have to appeal to the sinful motivation of covetousness in order to make it repay their own very often considerable investment. Gambling violates the principle of fair return for labor and investment, and the ethics of stewardship and work (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:9-12). Gambling also can lead to neglect of family responsibilities, a grievous sin in the eyes of God (1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Cor. 12:14).[26]

There are many good reasons for not gambling. These include the Christian views of godliness, work ethic, stewardship, loving our neighbours, the manner in which we should influence others, and the Bible’s condemnation of anything to do with chance.

I know that it is possible for a person to be generous, love his or her neighbour more than himself or herself and trust the sovereignty of God in “casting of lots”. However, human beings are too easily drawn to covetousness and dishonesty when gambling is involved.

Are you committed to ripping off people or building them up?

One of the fundamental principles of biblical Christianity that gives a knockout blow to gambling is, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

(advertisement courtesy Queensland Government)


[1] Don Tom, Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, “Don won’t pray – don’t ask him,” #111, available from: [Accessed 23 August 2009].

[2] “Russell Crowe rallies against gambling,” China Daily, 2008-01-03, available from: [Accessed 15 November 2008].

[3] Ibid.

[4] Melanie Christiansen & Steve Gray, “Wayne Goss regrets bringing poker machines to Queensland,” Courier-Mail, 20 September 2008, available from:,,24375592-23272,00.html [Accessed 23 August 2009].

[5] Nick Bryant, “Australia in thrall of gambling mania,” BBC News, Sydney, 30 January 2007, available from: [Accessed 23 August 2009].

[6] Anna Gizowska in Sydney, The Telegraph [UK], “Beware! Australia’s addict gamblers warn Britain,” 17 October 2004, available from: [Accessed 23 August 2009].

[7] Maxine McKew, 19 July 1999, 7.30 Report, ABC television Australia, “Productivity Commission exposes poker machine culture,” available from: [Accessed 15 November 2008].

[8] Wesley Mission, “Suicide in Australia, a dying shame,” Suicide Prevention Week, 6-10 November 2000, available from: [Accessed 23 August 2009].

[9] In ibid.

[10] The following details are based on Peter Jean , June 11, 2008, “Australians spend more on gambling than on food,” Herald Sun¸ available from:,21985,23844130-662,00.html [Accessed 15 November 2008].

[11] Ibid.

[12] Betty Conn Walker, 2003, “Vilified pokies not the root of all evil,” Sydney Morning Herald, November 20, available from: [Accessed 15 November 2003].

[13] “Melbourne man wins a share of Powerball $80m jackpot,” Herald Sun, 31 July 2009, available from:,21985,25859727-661,00.html [Accessed 23 August 2009].

[14] Senator Jeannie Ferris 2000, 3rd National Gambling Conference, Rex Hotel, Sydney, 12 May, available from: [Accessed 15 November 2008].

[15] F. E. Hamilton 1976, “Lots,” in Merrill C. Tenney (gen. ed.), The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 3, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 988.

[16] In ibid.

[17] Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible, Crossway Bibles, Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 2001.

[18] Henlee H. Barnette 1973, “Gambling”, in Carl. F. H. Henry (ed.), Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 258.

[19] See reference to Senator Jeannie Ferris above.

[20] Don Tom, 27 August 2009, Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, “God and gambling,” # 2, available from: [Accessed 27 August 2009[.

[21] I posted this in ibid., #3.

[22] Gambling Community Benefit Fund, Queensland Government (Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing), available from: [Accessed 29 August 2009].

[23] As in Maxine McKew above.

[24] The following contrast of the deontological and teleological ethics is based on Table 1.1: Two Views of Ethics, in Norman L. Geisler 1989, Christian Ethics: Options and Issues, Apollos, Leicester, England, p. 24/

[25] See Melanie Christiansen & Steve Gray 2008 above.

[26] R. N. Peel, 1987, “Gambling,” in R. K. Harrison (gen. ed.), Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, p. 165.

Works consulted

Scott J & Heath, M 2016. Gambling is killing one Australian a day, but it rakes in billions in tax. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 28 September. Available at: (Accessed 7 April 2018).

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 December 2019.

Life after Death: Current Controversies


(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

There is an increasingly active presence on the Internet of those who oppose the orthodox doctrine of the intermediate state. What happens at death for believers and unbelievers? If these writers are on the www, they are possibly active in your community and may turn up in your evangelical or charismatic congregation. We need to be aware of their errant teachings so that we can refute them.

My wife and I visited a local church in Australia in 2007 to hear an international speaker. He made this statement, “Unbelievers die but believers go to sleep.”  There was no further explanation.  When he made a raw statement such as that, he was not being inaccurate (see I Cor. 15:18) but he left himself wide open to the accusation that he believes in soul sleep.

If “believers go to sleep” at death, what does that mean?  Where do they go and what is their intermediate state?  If he is against the false doctrine of soul sleep, he should not make statements like that, without further explanation and a refutation of the soul sleep false doctrine

What are the issues at stake? There are three making a strong presence on the www:

a. Opposition to immortality of the soul,

b. Promotion of soul sleep, and

c. There is no hell, but annihilation of unbelievers at death.

To give an example of how these are presenting themselves on the www, I will illustrate with a conversation that I had with Harold, a Seventh-Day Adventist.

I have been debating with him on the “Christian Fellowship Forum.” I had written on this Forum that these SDAs were “promoting false doctrine, based on the Bible.” By that I meant that in their understanding of the Bible, they were presenting false teaching. An SDA member responded:

What ‘false’ doctrine’ do we promote, based on the Bible? I didn’t
know that there could be any such thing. All of our doctrines are
based on the Bible. I am sorry to say that this is more than you
can say about all of your doctrines. I’ll name two.
The immortality of the soul
The sacredness of Sunday.
Try as you might, you can not find any support for either of those
in any Bible.

I replied: [2]

To understand the meaning of “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” [Ezek. 18:4, 20], we need to understand what happens at death.  Ecclesiastes 12:7 explains that beautifully [“and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God”]. . . You are wanting this to mean that the human breath returns to God who gave it.

You don’t want to get a handle on what the Bible is teaching very clearly about what happens to a believer’s soul/spirit that survives death (Luke 12:4; Eccl. 12:7)[3], is consciously present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8), [and] is in a better place (Phil. 1:23).  This is a place where other souls are speaking (Matt. 17:3).  Please don’t spin me the yarn that Moses’ and Elijah’s breaths were talking with them.

These departed souls were even praying [they cried out with a loud voice – surely that is desperate prayer] (Rev. 6:9-10). . .

For unbelievers who die, the soul is in a place of conscious torment (Matt. 25:41; Luke 16:22-26; Rev. 19:20 – 20:15).

So what is your [Harold’s] response to all of this biblical evidence for the immortality of the soul after death?  He wrote: “You keep preaching that God gave you your immortality already.  Keep preaching that your ‘soul’ is immortal.  Satan did that, already, so just keep it up.”[4]

What blasphemy to attribute to Satan what God declares! What is at stake here? Orthodox biblical teaching that has been established in Scripture and accepted by evangelicals throughout the history of the church on life after death (with a minority of exceptions), is being attacked by this SDA person.

These doctrines include: (1) Immortality of the soul, (2) Rejection of soul sleep, (3) The nature of heaven and hell, (4) What happens immediately the last breath leaves the human body?

What makes these topics challenging is that we don’t have as detailed explanations as we would like in the Bible. However, there are sketches that provide us with certainty about the broad sweep of these doctrines.

Let’s tackle just one of these teachings that is under threat.

The immortality of the soul

At first you might not consider this an important biblical teaching. In fact, many of the evangelicals I minister among, have rarely heard anything about human beings having an immortal soul.

Some regard the teaching of the New Testament that a person has an immortal soul to be a misunderstanding of Scripture and the promotion of a Greek idea rather than Christian doctrine. Others speak of “the heresy of man’s immortal soul.”[5]


What do I mean by immortality when applied to human beings and death? “Immortality means the eternal, continuous, conscious existence of the soul after the death of the body.”[6] Can this be substantiated from Scripture?

Job asked: “If a man dies, shall he live again?” (14:14).[7] Jesus provides an answer in his response to Martha after the death of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

So, are human beings immortal or not? Do they have a continuous existence even after physical death? The answer is, “Yes,” but with qualifications.

A qualification

Paul wrote to Timothy that God “is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality” (I Tim. 6:15-16). Yet, Paul also taught Timothy that our Saviour, Jesus Christ, “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).

How can God alone have immortality and yet Jesus brought immortality to light for human beings through the Gospel? It depends on our understanding of immortality. God

alone is life’s original Owner and never-failing Fountain. His immortality has been called “an original, necessary, and eternal endowment.” In God’s being there is no death and not even a possibility of death in any sense whatever. Now immortality (Greek athanasia) means deathlessness. . .

But although only God is immortal in the sense of being the original Owner and Fountain of life and blessedness, in a derived sense it is also true that believers are immortal. In II Timothy 1:8-12 it is clearly stated that our Savior Christ Jesus on the one hand utterly defeated death, and on the other hand, “brought to light life and immortality [literally incorruptibility] through the gospel.”[8]

What does this mean in a practical sense for believers and unbelievers?

Because of Christ’s atoning death on the cross, the believer no longer experiences eternal, spiritual death. Physical death, while sorrowful for the grieving relatives who are left behind, is really gain for the believer. Phil. 1:23 states, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”

What can we say about immortality for the Christian? Through his death and resurrection, Christ brought to light the incorruptibility (immortality of the soul in a derived sense) of the soul of human beings. We see this is Jesus’ promise according to John 14:19, “Because I live, you shall live also.”

Immortality is not endless existence. Endless existence belongs only to God.

So, are human beings immortal? A good answer to the JWs and the SDAs would be something like this: “Yes, but only in the sense that their existence never ends; but in the Bible only those are called immortal who have everlasting life in Christ Jesus, and are destined to glorify him forever as to both soul and body.”[9]

What happens to the souls of the righteous dead at the Second Coming of Christ? I emphasise again that our knowledge from the Scriptures is brief, but this we know: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (I Cor. 15:22-23). At the Second Coming, it appears that the souls of believers will be reunited with their disintegrated bodies and “made alive.”

William Hendriksen explains the verse,

“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:44) to help us gain an understanding of what happens to the body at the resurrection:

At present our bodies are soul­-controlled bodies; that is, they are dominated by our invisible essence, viewed as the seat of sensations, affections, desires, all of these polluted by sin. But in the future our bodies will be spirit-controlled bodies! . . . By means of these bodies we shall glorify God forevermore.[10]

Smoldering Candle

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Is immortality an idea from Greek philosophy?

Plato and others did teach on immortality for human beings in general, but it had no parallel with the biblical view that the soul is indestructible, returns to God, and then is joined to the resurrected body (e.g. Eccl. 12:7; I Cor. 15).

Also, philosophers such as Plato taught on immortality of the soul alone. The soul was delivered from the prison of the body at death.

For the believer, the body is a temple of the soul (and Holy Spirit). Immortality, in the Christian sense, applies to the whole person, body and soul/spirit. In the final consummation, the soul/spirit and the body will be reunited according to I Cor. 15:44.

What about the souls of believers at death?

For my birthday in May 1997, my Christian mother gave me as a gift a book I had suggested, Erwin Lutzer’s excellent popular-level book, One Minute After You Die.[11] Three weeks later, Mum had entered her eternal destiny described so clearly in this book. Did she have a sense that her time on earth was ending? I will never know. Where did my mother go at death? Did she experience soul sleep, purgatory, or something else?

The Scriptures, although not detailed, are clear that Mum’s spirit “returned to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). According to John 11:17-26, to live and believe is followed by never dying. Jesus was crystal clear that everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never ever die ultimately. Death for the believer does not interrupt this eternal life that began at the point of commitment to Christ while on earth.

Paul stated that “we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). To the thief on the cross, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The SDAs & JWs want to remove the comma to say, “Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise,” meaning that Jesus said it to the thief on that very day and that it had nothing to do with the thief being with Jesus in Paradise on that very day.

There were no punctuation marks, breaks between words, or clearly defined sentences (as we understand them in English) in the original Greek. Therefore, how do we interpret this statement? Greek scholars have called the SDA/JW interpretation various things, including “grammatically senseless”[12] because it was obvious that Jesus was speaking to the thief on that very day. Jesus could not have been saying it in the past or in the future. Christ was giving assurance to the thief that on that very day they would both meet in Paradise.

Why is the final destiny of the redeemed variously described in the NT as heaven (Col. 1:5), Paradise (Luke 23:43), and Abraham’s bosom/side (Luke 16:22)?

We have no difficulty referring to a house as a residence, mansion, dwelling, and perhaps a palace for some. God has no difficulty referring to heaven by these various designations that mean the same place (see also 2 Cor. 12).

There is a need in the church for clear teaching on the nature of heaven.

What about the souls of unbelievers at death?

Ladies and Gentlemen: The idea of a hell was born of revenge and brutality on the one side, and cowardice on the other. . . I have no respect for any human being who believes in it. I have no respect for any man who preaches it. . . I dislike this doctrine, I hate it, I despise it, I defy this doctrine. . . This doctrine of hell is infamous beyond all power to express.[13]

These are the words of a prominent defender of agnosticism and antagonist of Christ in 19th century USA, Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll.

Jesus stated in the story (parable) of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 that the rich man, the unbeliever, went to “Hades, being in torment” (v. 23). The “wicked servant” will go to the place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:51).

Teaching on Hades, hell, and soul sleep are critical for believers in these days of doctrinal decline in the churches.


For believers and unbelievers, when they die, the soul and body are separated. The souls go to their respective places and are alive. For believers, they go immediately into the presence of the Lord.

Loraine Boettner’s definition at the beginning of this article, is biblical: “Immortality means the eternal, continuous, conscious existence of the soul after the death of the body.”

I understand that there is an old tombstone in a cemetery in Indiana that has this epitaph:

Pause, stranger, when you pass me by

As you are now, so once was I

As I am now, so you will be

So prepare for death and follow me.

Underneath these words, an unknown person has scratched these words:

To follow you I’m not content

Until I know which way you went.[14]


[1] Harold, Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, “More about Seventh-Day Adventists,” no. 56, at: (Accessed 29 July 2007).

[2] Post by OzSpen (my non-deplume) to Harold (an SDA) at Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, “More about Seventh-Day Adventists,” no. 71, at ibid. (Accessed 29July 2007).

[3] The following two paragraphs are based on information in Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe 1992, When Critics Ask, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 195.

[4] Christian Fellowship Forum, post no. 70 (URL above).

[5] Cited in William Hendriksen 1959, The Bible on the Life Hereafter, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 45.

[6] Loraine Boettner 1956, Immortality, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, p. 59.

[7] Unless otherwise stated, all Bible references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version 2001, Crossway Bibles, a division of Good news Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois.

[8] Hendriksen, p. 46.

[9] Ibid., p. 47.

[10] Hendriksen, p. 173.

[11] Erwin W. Lutzer 1997, One Minute After You Die: A Preview of Your Final Destination, Moody Press, Chicago.

[12] Lutzer, p. 49.

[13] In Hendriksen, p. 79.

[14] In Lutzer, p. 11.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 22 October 2016.


Gambling with Families

When Dad or Mum stumbles through the front door drunk several nights a week, children pick up quickly that booze might be a problem. But when Dad is away for hours, Mum and Dad fight over money and there is severe marriage conflict, children don’t readily think that Dad has a gambling problem.[1]

But the effects on the kids can be just as devastating. Gambling problems are often clothed in secrecy. The problem explodes for a parent when there is not enough money to pay for the rates, house mortgage, the electricity, or the telephone account. Children can be severely negatively affected by a parent’s gambling.[2]

Some problem gamblers leave the family home and skip out on the marriage relationship over and over again.[3] Children grieve over the loss of the parent and the family is left with fears and insecurity because of not enough money to pay the bills. Taking swift steps to safeguard family finances is top priority in dealing with problem gambling.[4]

When family find out about the gambling, it is common for them to have outbursts of anger, even rage. Like the person with a drug addiction, lies, deceit and theft can become part of the gambler’s lifestyle.[5] An extreme example of gambling’s family impact was the July 2004 report of one man accused of selling his five daughters into prostitution to pay for his gambling debt.[6]

Australians are keen gamblers, spending over $13 billion dollars in the year 2001 on gambling.[7] Most do not become problem gamblers but about 2% of adults do experience problems.

Appendix A

According to the Government of Western Australia, Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor, these are the statistics:

· About 290,000 people in Australia (that is approximately 2% of all adult Australians) are considered to be experiencing significant problems associated with gambling.

· It is estimated that in Western Australia, problem gamblers represent 0.70 per cent of the adult population.

· Western Australia has the lowest rates of problem gambling and this can be attributed to the relative availability of gaming machines in comparison to the other states and territories.

· The average duration of gambling problems is nine years.

· Problem gambling is most prevalent with regular players of gaming machines, racing and casino table games.

· It is estimated that in 1997/98 problem gamblers spent (lost) $M2 673, 80 per cent of which was expended on gaming machines.

· Between five and ten “other” people are affected by the behaviour of a person who has a gambling problem.

· Each game played on a gaming machine is independent of results from past games – machines that have not paid out for some time have no higher chance of paying out now or in the near future.

· If a gambler “reinvests” their winnings, he or she will eventually lose the lot (available from:, cited 11 May 2005).

For a report on the Western Australian Gambling Industry, 2002-2003, see the Status Report at: [cited 11 May 2005]

Appendix B

“For every gambler with a gambling problem, there are about ten other people who are directly affected. They could be partners, wives, husbands, children, friends, parents, business colleagues, anyone”[8]

Appendix C: Gambling in Australia

“Key findings from the investigation [Productivity Commission 1999] found that around 330,000 Australians (2.3% of the adult population) had gambling problems, with 140,000 experiencing significant problems. The 330,000 problem gamblers on average lost nearly $12,000 per year from gambling activity with many problem gamblers experiencing emotional difficulties – one in ten problem gamblers said that they had contemplated suicide because of gambling.”[9]

Appendix D: Gambling 2001-2002

Australia’s $15bn gambling splurge[10]

23 September 2003

AUSTRALIANS gambled away more than $15 billion in 2001-02, according to new figures released today.

The figure works out at $1,016.85 for every Australian aged 18 or over, a rise of more than $21.95 on the previous year.

Put in other terms, 3.4 per cent of the average household’s after-tax income was lost gambling.

Australian Gambling Statistics, prepared by the Tasmanian Gaming Commission from data in all states and territories, showed Australia’s appetite for gambling continued unabated.

Total gambling turnover rose 6.56 per cent to $125 billion compared with the previous year.

Per capita, Northern Territorians were the heaviest losers, pouring an average $1,576 each into pokies, horses, casinos, lotteries and other forms of gambling.

In NSW, $1,212 was spent, while Victorians lost $1,180.

West Australians, who don’t have pokies in their pubs and clubs, were the lightest losers, at $469.

Poker machines in pubs and clubs swallowed the most money, with $85 billion spent Australia-wide, followed by casinos with $21 billion wagered.

[1] This kind of scenario is what I face in counselling problem gamblers. No confidential details are revealed here. Her husband was complaining about how he was not able to pick up her gambling addiction readily and he wanted to know why. I walked him through the differences between illicit drug & alcohol addiction, and gambling addiction. So the evidence for this kind of statement is subjective, coming from my casework.

[2] Again, the evidence is based on my casework but camouflaged so that it won’t be recognised, but the principle is the same.

[3] Evidence? Casework.

[4] Evidence? This is part of my counselling intervention and in two months with Lifeline, it has been most successful in helping with them move to responsible gambling or eliminate gambling. The choice is theirs. I always present the alternatives.

[5] Evidence? Casework.

[6] This article reporting of a father who sold five of his daughters into prostitution, concerns a Pakistani father, Allah Ditta from Lahore, Pakistan. The mother, Bashiran, appeared in court, seeking protection for her 13-year-old daughter, who was threatened with being forced into prostitution by her father to pay for his drug and gambling habit: “Bashiran claimed her husband is a drug addict and a gambler. She said that he has been selling their daughters to elderly men over the last thirteen years in order to settle gambling debts. Bashiran said she protested when Allah Ditta tried to sell their fifth daughter, 13-year-old Sakina. She said she feared that he would sell their last daughter, Maskeena, who is seven years old. She said she had already demanded a divorce but he refused” (Waqar Gillani 2004, ‘Man accused of selling 5 daughters to settle gambling debt,’ Daily Times, Pakistan, available from: [11 May 2005]. indicated that the date of this article was 3 July [2004], available from: [11 May 2004].

[7] “Australians are a nation of keen punters, spending over $13 billion dollars a year on gambling,” according to Justin Healey (ed.) 2001, Issues in Society, vol. 153, details available from: [retrieved 11 May 2005]. This article also states that “In 1999-2000, total gambling expenditure within Australia was $13.34 billion which is more than the Tasmanian 1999-2000 GDP of $11.6 billion, the national fuel excise collected ($12.7 billion in 2000-01) and more than the tax cuts given to offset the GST ($12 billion in 2000-01) (p.1).” According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Special Article, “Gambling in Australia,” in Yearbook Australia 2002, “Gambling activity in Australia has grown enormously during the nineties. Recent ABS data revealed that expenditure on legalised gambling exceeded $11b in 1997-98” (available from:[email protected]/0/99d3b5096368c2e9ca2569de002842b7?OpenDocument, cited 11 May 2005).

[8] “When the loser is not the gambler,” Gambling Support Bureau (Tasmanian government), available from: available from: [15 November 2008].

[9] Available from, “City of Onkaparinga,” at: [11 May 2005].

[10] The Advertiser (Adelaide), available from:,5936,7350469%255E421,00.html [11 May 2005].

Whytehouse designs

Gambling Shame

Betty was so ashamed of the $100s of dollars a week she was losing at the poker machines. She could not face up to telling her husband and children, so she started stealing goods and hocking them to pay for the debts.

Bill would lose his $100s at the race track or TAB and he would not own up to his wife when she asked why so much money was disappearing from the joint accounts.

Shame often prevents people from admitting their gambling addictions.

There is no easy way to break through the shame barrier except by confronting the issue gently. The spouse who sees the money disappearing should speak with the partner. If there is no admission, it is recommended that the spouse contact a gambling help counsellor to develop strategies to keep finances secure.

I recall a problem gambler who told me that he was forced to admit to his problem when his wife and a counsellor “conspired to starve me of my finances” (his language).

Basketball superstar, Michael Jordan, told an interviewer on USA “60 Minutes” that he was ashamed how he allowed betting to take over his life:

“I’ve gotten myself into (gambling) situations where I would not walk away and I’ve pushed the envelope. But my drive to win is so great I just step over that line. It’s very embarrassing. One of the things you totally regret. So you look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I was stupid.'”[1]

For every problem gambler, there are 5-10 other people affected.


[1] “Jordan admits gambling was ‘stupid'”, Associated Press, October 20, 2005, available

Whytehouse designs

Gambling and the economic crisis

During these tough economic times, it is tempting to find quick solutions. Gambling is one that some people choose for a financial rescue package. They go chasing money at the races, TAB, Lotto, or on the pokies.

The Victorian government (Australia) admits, “Pokies are not designed to provide you with extra income. They are designed to make profit for others.”[1] Governments that make big bucks form gambling, want you to believe that “the pokies are simply a form of entertainment.”[2]

The problem is that when you gamble, so the responsible gambling message goes, it is meant to be entertainment. It is not designed for you to make money.

For example,

just check out the odds of winning the jackpot in Powerball – one in 54 million, the pokies: one in 9.7 million, Keno the chances of a 10 number jackpot is one in 8.9 million, Lotto: one chance in 8 million, with the best chance of a win with a simple scratchie: one chance in 960,000.

Pretty scary odds when you consider the chances of getting hit by lightning is 1 in 1.6 million.[3]

In total, what do Aussies lose on gambling? The above Today Tonight report stated that “Australians lose more than $16 billion a year on games of chance.”[4] This is made up as follows:

    • Pokies rake in a cool $8.7 billion in pubs and clubs across the country.
    • Casinos with gaming tables offering blackjack, routlette, craps, poker, and keno to name a few rake in $2.5 billion.
    • The old stayer horses, net $3.2 billion.
    • Dogs have a total turnover of $760 million.
    • The trots make about $608 million.
    • Lotteries across the country pull in $1.44 billion.
    • Keno takes in $86 million.[5]

So, in these troublesome economic times, chasing money through gambling is not a good strategy for winning cash to pay the bills.

David Campbell, writing in The Age (Melbourne) about playing the pokies said:

If it’s just for ‘fun’ and not the money, then try slowing spin times; displaying the odds on winning combinations; cutting back the ability to bet large multiples on several lines; progressively displaying the total amount lost by an individual on a machine; making the machines coin-only.

And the likelihood of that happening? Much less than the chance of getting five rhinos.[6]

In its booklet on poker machines, the South Australian government made these startling, but truthful, statements:[7]

  • “Pokies are programmed so that in the end the machine will win.”
  • “Nothing you do changes that.”
  • “Pokies are not designed to provide you with extra income.”
  • “When you play the pokies, don’t expect to win.”
  • “The pokies are the winners.”
  • “When playing a game like Black Rhinos, to have a 50% chance of getting five rhinos, playing one line at a time, it would take 6.7 million button presses and cost nearly $330,000.”[8]
  • “You cannot change the fact that the odds are stacked against you.”

Yet, these are the kinds of statements that governments promoting “responsible gambling” and pokies would like you to hear:[9]

    • Set a limit on how much you will spend for this entertainment. If you want to see your favourite singer in concert, you know how much that entertainment will cost you. For entertainment on the pokies, set a financial limit and spend not a cent more. This may mean leaving ATM cards at home, getting a second signature on a bank account, or leaving your credit card at home.
    • Also set a limit for the time you will spend at the venue.
    • Never borrow money for gambling.
    • Accept that losses are the cost of entertainment. Never chase your losses.
    • Please learn to understand the random numbers of how poker machines work. The poker machine is designed for the gaming venue ultimately to win and not for you the winner. The pokies are meant to encourage you to play. They are not designed to give you more back than you “invest.” The occasional win for you is a big factor in attracting you back to the venue to play again.
    • If you get into trouble, you will find government funded help at Gambling Helpline and Gambling Help Service agencies in your local community.[10]

In these tough economic times, you are going to be tempted to get quick cash. Gambling is not meant for that purpose. Governments say it is designed for fun. Try telling that to families that are devastated by problem gambling!

If you go to a venue, TAB or the race track hoping to get you out of your economic fixes (paying bills of mortgage, electricity & telephone), you generally will be sorely disappointed.

South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, elected to Australian federal parliament after a “no pokies” platform in the South Australian upper house, said:

It’s a bit cute for the clubs [in Canberra] to say they’re providing the amenity in a safe environment. It may be physically safe but it is not financially safe. This is a product that causes an enormous amount of harm. . . It is a sad situation that you have clubs that are supposed to be there supporting the community being involved in an activity that rips families a part that damages communities. And that’s the reality of poker machines.[11]

Let’s face it: The gambling venues want to suck you in to believe that you can be a winner at the pokies. Gambling is for jokers!


[1] Poblemgambling, “Playing the Pokies,” available from:|8331|poker%20machine%20problem||S|b|3859636626 [22 August 2009].

[2] Ibid.

[3] David Richardson, “Today Tonight,” 9 November 2007, available from: [22 August 2009.]

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] David Campbell, “So the pokies are fun? You must be joking Mr Tatersalls,” The Age, October 20, 2003, [22 August 2009].

[7] The pokies: Before you press the button, know the facts, available from: available from: [22 August 2009].

[8] This statement is from the Productivity Commission 1999, Australian Gambling Industries Inquiry, Report No. 10. See: [22 August 2009]. A new Productivity Commission report on gambling commenced on 24 November 2008. See the press release at: [22 August 2009].

[9] These are my statements and I used them in an article I wrote for a local newspaper. I am ashamed that I was so naïve as to believe this “responsible gambling” party line stuff.

[10] Details are at: [22 August 2009].

[11] Chris Kimball, “Canberra: Pokie Capital?” Stateline, 7 August 2009, available from: [22 August 2009].

Whytehouse designs

Gambling Addiction Hard to Tame

Australia has a love affair with gambling. Almost 21% percent of the world’s pokies are in Australia.[1] For most people, gambling is a pleasurable activity. Sadly for some, it has become an addiction that they cannot tame.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has stated, “I hate poker machines and I know something of their impact on families.”[2]

Gambling devours their savings and hopes at an astonishing rate. About 80% of Australians gamble, but 40% of these play at least once a week. The majority of them gamble responsibly.

However it is estimated that about 2% of the population, about 330,000 Australians, have severe or moderate problem gambling habits and about 140,000 have severe problems. Of that number, for “about 70 per cent, their major activity is poker machines.”[3]

Australians spend more on gambling than they do on food. In the financial year 2006-2007, we spent almost $91.5 million on food. That’s about $4350 each for the year according to Bureau of Statistics figures.

However, in the previous year, 2005-06, gaming industry figures show that adults spent $148 million on gambling. That’s an average of $9491 each spent on gambling, which includes figures from tourists.[4] That is, we spend 61% more on gambling than we did on food.

How much of this gambling money goes to the venue? “The average actual gaming ‘profit’ (before tax) is about a tenth of turnover.”[5]

For those with a gambling addiction, families suffer the shame of losing their assets, being evicted from housing, and empty food cupboards. Marriages break up. Back in 1999, the Productivity Commission estimated that there are about 1600 gambling-related divorces and 1600 gambling-related separations in Australia annually. [6]

Work, health and emotional issues are sometimes impacted badly by gambling.

One estimate was that for each person who engages in excessive gambling, 5-10 other people around them are affected.[7]

Gambling is an addiction for some that is difficult to tame.

Please don’t under estimate the impact of gambling on suicide thinking and action – especially for the older generation. A recent USA study found that for adults over age 55 who had been gambling an average of 17 years before they sought self-exclusion (banning oneself) from gaming venues, they had a greater risk of suicide. The research indicated that nearly 14 percent of older adults surveyed sought help because they wanted to prevent themselves from committing suicide.[8]

One of the researchers, Lia Nower, said that “this is particularly troubling because, irrespective of age, problem gamblers have reported rates of suicidal ideation and/or attempts as high as six times those found in the general population.”[9]

What can you do to help yourself with taming a gambling addiction? What can you as a family member do to limit the damage done by gambling in your family?


[1] “Russell Crowe rallies against gambling,” China Daily, 2008-01-03, available from: [cited 15 November 2008]. This article is in Appendix A

[2] Ibid.

[3] Maxine McKew, 19 July 1999, 7.30 Report, ABC television Australia, “Productivity Commission exposes poker machine culture,” available from: [15 November 2008].

[4] Peter Jean , June 11, 2008, “Australians spend more on gambling than on food,” Herald Sun¸ available from:,21985,23844130-662,00.html [15 November 2008].

[5] Betty Conn Walker, 2003, “Vilified pokies not the root of all evil,” Sydney Morning Herald, November 20, available from: [15 November 2003].

[6] V. A. Dickson-Swift, E. L. James & S. Kippen 2005, Journal of Gambling Issues, Issue 13, March, “The experience of living with a problem gambler: Spouses & partners speak out,” available from: [15 November 2008].

[7] Senator Jeannie Ferris 2000, 3rd National Gambling Conference, Rex Hotel, Sydney, 12 May, available from: [15 November 2008].

[8] Lia Nowerand & Alex Blaszczynski,, 16 September 2008. “Older gamblers may face greater suicide risk than younger counterparts,” Psychology and Sociology, available from e Science News at: [15 November 2008].

[9] Ibid.

Whytehouse designs

Anger: How to learn to control it![1]

Image result for clipart anger public domain photo control anger

By Spencer D Gear

Kathy[2] went bananas with anger when she told her 13-year-old, Danny, for the umpteenth time (well, the 5th time) to pick up his clothes on the floor of his bedroom and to make his bed. When he hadn’t done it at the 5th nag, she screamed her head off at him – with a few added swear words. Danny gave her the finger and swore back at her several times. This got into a screaming match with accusations flying back and forth.

How can Kathy learn to control her anger so that there is at least a reasonable relationship with Danny and he picks up his clothes and makes the bed without a rage from Kathy? Kathy needs to learn that she makes herself angry, Danny does not make her angry, stinkin’ thinkin’ is the cause of Kathy’s anger and she can change her self-talk and thus control her anger.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself in this explanation of anger management.

To control your anger, you need to get rid of the idea that many have been taught throughout their lives – that other people make you angry. Let’s get it straight! YOU cause your own anger. If you don’t believe that, please read further. If you did not think catastrophic thoughts you would not make yourself angry. It’s that simple to explain, but it takes effort and discipline to change it – but it is not all that difficult.

Let’s do an exercise to see if this is really the case.

1. Make yourself happy. How did you do that?[3]

2. Now, immediately make yourself sad. Tell me how to do that!

3. Now, change your mood by making yourself feel angry. What would you tell somebody else to help make him/her angry?

4. Make yourself contented. Teach me how you made yourself calm.

Notice what you can do. You can move from feeling happy, to feeling sad, to feeling angry, to

feeling calm, by the way you think about life. The principle is:

As you think, you feel, you act.

The key to changing your anger is to change the way to think about events. This is not a mind-control technique, but learning to control your anger by the way you think about life. Change your stinkin’ thinkin’ (irrational self-talk) and you will learn to control your anger. It works. Nobody makes you angry. You make yourself angry.

But there are a few myths we need to uncover before we get into the real thing of teaching you to control your own anger.

I. Shattering myths about anger[4]

Myth No. 1: People always learn from their experiences.

If this is true, why do parents of teens come for counselling? Johnny may have been disobedient, acting out, taking drugs, abusing teachers, for years, but the parents continue to scream back at him, ground him for months, and he still keeps doing it.

Myth No. 2: Old habits always require long periods of time to change.

If you have been in counselling for years and have seen no remarkable change, I’d recommend you quit such counselling. This approach to controlling anger is simple, effective and quick for many people – if you will put the principles into practice every day.

Myth No. 3: You cannot be calm & undisturbed in a stressful environment.

Julie was living with a very difficult defacto partner, Peter. She thought it was impossible to live a normal life with him. She failed to realise that Julie made Julie disturbed and that Julie could make Julie undisturbed if she would put into place some fundamental principles. Peter had done many things over the years and Julie became frustrated. But Peter never disturbed Julie. She did that herself.

Myth No. 4: Everyone has a breaking point.

That might be the case if you get cane trash pushed under your fingernails, but for most situations there is generally no breaking point. Some people can endure crisis after crisis in a week and not fall in a heap or go into an obnoxious rage.

Myth No. 5: Anger cannot be prevented, it can only be suppressed.

You can learn to prevent anger if you engage in correct self-talk. Another way to put it is: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”[5] This is not pretending not to be angry, but changing your thinking so that you control your anger. No matter what the issue or the person, it is possible to forgive your son who does outrageous things and stop getting angry.

Myth No. 6: Fight fire with fire.

Max stood up to his son, Brian, eye-to-eye, nose-to-nose, every time Brian swore at him. This had been going on since he was 12. He’s now 17. How long does it take for Dad to realise that fighting fire with fire doesn’t work?

Myth No. 7: Both parents and teens must be seen in counselling with a rebellious teen.

Many parents struggling with youth problems in the family, think that the teens need to be fixed and parents need not be involved. Parents can be seen alone; youth can be counselled solo. However, it would be desirable to have both parents and youth working together on the change process, but parents alone or youth alone can begin the change process – as long as they want to change.

Myth No. 8: The “real reasons” behind a problem – the hidden causes from childhood – must

be understood before personality changes can be made.

In most circumstances, it is not necessary to delve into a person’s past. What is important is to show how, for example, Dad is getting himself worked up today, with this teenager, over this issue!

If you are interested in preventing your anger, learning how to cool down, and giving up blaming others for your anger – READ ON!

II. Anger can be harmful [6]

A. Anger almost always increases your frustrations.

B. Getting angry prevents your solving problems.

C. You are a poor example of mental health.

D. Anger can make you physically sick.

E. Anger is the greatest single cause for divorce.

F. Anger can be responsible for one of the most depraved of human behaviours – child abuse.

III. The sequence of how you make yourself angry[7]

From beginning to end, there are either 5 or 6 steps in getting angry. If you end the sequence merely feeling angry and wanting to kill someone, you will stop at step 5. If you wind up punishing rather than penalising someone, you’ve gone all the way to the 6th and the final step.

Step 1: “I want something.”
Step 2: “I didn’t get what I wanted and I’m frustrated.”

What you do with this frustration is extremely important in determining the direction your emotions will take. Step 3 is probably the first point at which you can begin to react in a bad way.[8]

Step 3: “It is awful and terrible not to get what I want and not to be treated as a person.”

If you define your frustration as a catastrophe, you’ve had it. Depending on what you tell yourself about your frustrations, you can develop several problems such as depression, anxiety or anger. The hateful emotional reactions of anger, rage, revenge and spitefulness are produced by the sentences you tell yourself (your self-talk). Briefly, they are:

(a) I must have my way and it is awful not to get everything I want, and

(b) You are wicked for frustrating me and you deserve to be punished.

If you follow step 4, it mostly leads specifically to anger.

Step 4: “You shouldn’t frustrate me! I must have my way.”

At this point you have changed the wish into a demand.

Step 5: “You’re bad for frustrating me.”

You have made the unfortunate evaluation that someone was bad because he or she frustrated you. His/her actions might be objectionable, but that never means you are compelled to reject the person because you reject the behaviour.

Step 6: “Bad people ought to be punished.”

These 6 steps are easily condensed into only two steps:

(1) I want my own way, and

(2) I must, therefore, have it.

IV. How do you learn to control your anger?

A. Quit making things BIGGER than BIG in your mind[9]

Most of us can make BIG things out of LITTLE things. “The next time you get upset over positively anything ask yourself as soon as possible thereafter, and preferably before you get upset, if you aren’t really being only annoyed rather than tortured.” Could it be that you are experiencing “only a sad event rather than a tragic event”? Is it possible to “live through the frustration without it killing you”? If it is only annoying instead of being like the end of the world, you will suffer from annoyances and disappointments. BUT if you “think you’re suffering catastrophes, earth-shattering events, and deadly issues,” you will make yourself angry.[10]

This gets to the core of how to control your anger. Most events are not like the end of the world (catastrophic). Most things in our lives are not as serious as we think they are. Even those that are serious can be made worse by making ourselves upset over them.

So, how do we control anger? We need to practice this way of thinking:

1. Frustrations are not disturbances.

“A frustration is the condition of wanting something and not getting it, or not wanting something and having it forced on you.”[11] Even if somebody does something aggressive towards you or treats you like a nerd, you may become frustrated but you do not need to become disturbed (angry) by it. How come?

2. Most frustrations are quite tolerable

Here’s the challenge to control your anger. Learn to see less events in your life as frustrations.

Or, learn to see your frustrations as not as serious as you think they are. If you could do this, you would learn to control your anger. To do this, you will need to evaluate your frustrations and think more carefully about them than you have in the past. For example:

  • If somebody never loved you dearly, you would not die.
  • Being rejected is not the end of the world.
  • If your children leave clothes, books and toys all over their rooms, it is not a catastrophic frustration but a challenge to find a way to encourage them to tidy the room.
  • A person cutting you off in traffic is not reason to shout a string of swear words.

Even if frustrations are severe, there is no reason for them to lead to an outburst of anger, unless you choose for that to happen.

3. Why distinguish between frustrations [annoyances] and catastrophes?

This is to help you to control your anger. Here’s the issue:

“If you think that what is happening to you is going to kill you, then you surely aren’t going to sit still and let people run all over you. But if you do not think something is the end of the world, you’re going to take it calmly and not get angry over it.”[12]

Here’s how it happens. You make yourself angry when you say that things are awful in your thinking. When you make catastrophes out of frustrations, you will make yourself angry. It is not the end of the world to be treated unfairly by your teenager or mother. Prove to yourself and to me that it is absolutely terrible! If she accuses you of being a bitch, please show me how that must hurt you!

If you think, “What a b-b-so-and-so my mother is when she doesn’t allow me to do that, you will become angry because you are making it sound like a catastrophe in your thinking. Once you think something is horrible or unbearable, you will make yourself angry – even very angry.

4. Anger can cover up your fear.

Some angry people have fears of failure or fears of being inadequate, so they cover up with anger.

5. Do you ever have to have your own way?

a. Anger says, “I don’t deserve this kind of treatment, so it must stop immediately.”

Whenever your self-talk is saying something must or must not, should or should not be done or happen, you will most likely be building up a steam of anger. “This is an imperfect world and sometimes it stinks, so you’d better get used to the smell.”[13]

b. If you are ever to learn self-control of your anger, you need to understand these basic principles:

(1) There is no law against your being treated in a wrong way.[14]

(2) It is uncomfortable when you are treated unfairly by anybody, but it is not catastrophic (like the end of the world).

(3) If somebody treats you unfairly, there’s no point in labelling that person as wicked. That person simply does unfair things.

(4) If you try to punish severely that person, it does not help the situation at all.

You become angry because you confuse the desire for fair treatment with thinking that you must have fair treatment.

6. When you catastrophise in your thoughts, you are a dictator.

“The one type of person most people do not want to be close to is a dictator, someone telling them to do this or that without any regard to their own wishes. Has it ever occurred to you, however, that when you’re angry you are always a dictator? It’s easy enough to see this when you recall what it is that makes you sore in the first place: your demands. And what is a dictator but a walking demand?”[15]

a. Mum in control

Think of a Mum whose son, Bill, does not obey her most of the time! Instead of going into a rage just about every time, she could behave more sensibly if she would realise that:

(1) It would be very nice if Bill would become an obedient son;

(2) About the only way that this will happen is by telling Bill that guaranteed consequences will be put into place for him;

(3) To motivate Bill to obedience, these consequences will be stated in a written contract and take effect from next week. Of course, he never has to experience these consequences. All he has to do is obey Mum’s instructions every time.

(4) If these consequences don’t motivate Bill to obedience, Mum will not feel angry with Bill, but will calmly accept that fact that Bill does not want to change – YET!

b. Mum the dictator!

If Mum takes the other road of being a dictator (catastrophises), she will follow an irrational process:

(1) Bill’s disobedience is unbearable;

(2) Mum will have to work harder to get Bill to obey;

(3) If Bill does not obey, Mum will scream, slap him, let him know how bad he is for defying his mother, and insist angrily that he must do as his mother says;

(4) Keep this up until Bill sees how right Mum is and Bill obeys.

You don’t have to be a genius to see that Mum the dictator will probably not succeed. Yet millions of well-meaning parents around the world are dictators in their talk and self-talk, thinking that children have to do what’s good for them because the parents are right and the kids are facing a life-and-death issue. If Bill attacked Mum, I would hope that Mum would protect herself and others, even calling on others for assistance

If you are angry for any reason (unless there is a physical cause), you become a dictator in your thoughts: “I must get my way and he should not treat me that way.” This is irrational thinking that makes you angry.

7. Self-pity and Anger

Often depression goes hand in glove with anger. This often happens with people who are into self-pity. The self-pitier lets others have their own way, becomes bitter, but one day there is an explosion.

For example, Ann has allowed her 16-year-old daughter, Sally, to hit her around for years. Sally is taller and heavier than Ann. Ann has developed the bad habit of making a catastrophe in her thinking about stopping Sally from hitting her around.

Beware of those who engage in self-pity. The day of reckoning will come when they explode in anger. They may have been fearful, long-suffering and passive for years, while they catastrophise all inside their heads. Eventually it may lead to bitterness, anxiety and depression – and then the explosion!

“Most of the frustrations from which you suffer are really not all that awful, and the few that are bad can be handled with much more calm and acceptance than you generally think possible.”[16]

B. Quit the Blame Game

1. “Blame is the central issue of anger.”[17] Suppose I call you a nerd, shit or bastard and you rage at me, calling me a blankety blank b. . . When you get angry with me, you are trying to convince others and me that I am a damnable person who is good-for-nothing. You have turned my obnoxious behaviour into a personal assassination of me as a person. To overcome your anger, you need to separate the person from his or her actions. To control anger, you need to become problem-oriented and not blame-oriented.[18] When you damn people in your thinking, it will come out of your mouth in anger towards them.

2. To control your anger,

  • Always separate the person from his or her actions;
  • Remember that most “people behave badly for three very good reasons: stupidity, ignorance, and disturbance.”[19]
  • Forgive everyone, but learn from the things people do to you. Forgiveness means you lay aside your right to get even with another person.
  • The more you blame others in your thinking and speech, the more angry you become.
  • The more you treat people like garbage, the more likely they are to treat you the same way.

3. The next time things don’t go your way, think about how much damage you could do to yourself by becoming angry. Of course it takes time to master new ways of thinking and doing. You can learn,

  • You don’t need to have your own way;
  • It is not for you to decide that this world should not be filled with selfish and cruel people, all because you demand it to be that way;
  • That people are not labelled by you as bad because they behave badly; and
  • That people should be treated badly because they treat others badly.

4. You need to stop and think that it is false to say that you can’t take insults calmly and to sit down quietly and talk through things with others who are doing or saying crappy things to you. Your “natural” way of doing things (blaming them and exploding in anger) is nothing more than a habit of reacting that you have learned over the years. “You can unlearn to be that way.”[20]

5. “You get angry today not because you’ve been a sorehead all your life but because you are still telling yourself that you can’t stand not getting your way and that others have no right to be wrong. Should you question the notions the very next time you are frustrated, you will also not get angry the very next time you are frustrated. Try it and see!”[21]

V. If you don’t get angry, what else can you do?

By now you will have learned that you will function better if you do not blame, keep your cool, and do something else. What is that something else?

A. Control your own anger by using the principles you have learned here.

B. Keep on believing that people can control their own anger, unless they have brain damage from an accident or disease.

C. Imagine what you can do when another person tries to push your buttons and instead of flying into a rage you respond calmly and reasonably.

D. Behaviour and words matter, but actions speak louder than words. It is what you do and say about frustration that matters, not how much you scream at another person.

E. Watch out for the ways that children and spouses can be amazingly creative in getting around frustrations. Stand your ground, even if the other tries many techniques to get his or her own way.

F. If somebody accuses you, you have two options: (1) It is true. If so, admit it. You are a fallible human being with lots of faults. (2) It is false. Give the other person the right to his/her opinion and don’t enter into arguments. Let it rest. You can say to yourself (and not to him): “He has the right to be wrong.” “In this way it is possible never to become upset over any accusation or to make insults out of unkind remarks.”[22]

G. Practise logical consequences:

“Unless you suffer for your mistakes, you’re likely to continue making them. If others let you get off scot-free when you have behaved badly, you will act badly again in the belief that nothing uncomfortable will happen to you.”[23]

Here are some common issues with kids and youth and some logical consequences:[24]

(1) If your teenager will not obey the curfew time at night (or any other time), the teen is told that she may be picked up by the police and you will not bail her out if she makes choices to disobey in this way.

(2) If your youth will not turn off his desk lamp in the morning before going to school, after he has gone to school you as parent go in and pull the lamp apart, unplug it from the power point. Warn him ahead of time that you will do this if he leaves the light on when he goes to school. The same can be done with a radio, CD or stereo left blaring in a room when a child is not there.

(3) If there are fights by the children over washing or drying the dishes, tell them that they do not need to eat at your table if they refuse to clean the dishes. You don’t care either way. The choice is hers. Do the dishes and enjoy cooked food, or get the boring alternative of looking through the refrigerator for food, but you will not be able to cook any food.

(4) The child refuses to put on his seat belt while the car is moving. Don’t yell, just pull up beside the road and stop. When the belt is buckled, the journey continues. Without a word, the driver is back into the flow of traffic again.

(5) If a child will not eat with knife, fork and spoon, give her a choice. Eat with knife and fork or eat with the fingers. That becomes difficult with mashed potatoes (she sits there until the potatoes are all eaten. She’ll see quickly the advantage of eating with knife and fork.

(6) If a child leaves toys and clothes lying on the floor and furniture (he doesn’t put things away), you as a parent pick up the items and lock them away for a week. Make sure tht you warn him that this will happen.

(7) If there is fighting among brothers and sisters when they are watching TV, switch off the TV without saying a word.

(8) You have asked the children to put their clothes in the dirty clothes-basket and they refuse or “forget.” Don’t go to their rooms to pick up the clothes. Let them use up all of their clothes until one day they want a particular piece of clothing and realise that it is not clean. I can assure you that they will run to the dirty clothes basket with an arm full of dirty clothes.

These are some of the benefits of natural or logical consequences. Use them. They work.

H. Teach others what you are learning.

Most won’t learn in the heat of the argument. Wait until they have cooled down. Explain how their thinking affects how they act. Also, blowing their tops with anger is not the most healthy way to deal with anger.

I. Accept the fact that most people can become disturbed (neurotic).

J. Count to 10 before you react. As corny as this sounds, it can give you time to consider your thoughts and not make yourself angry.

VI. To control your anger

We’ve learned that you upset yourself by the irrational self-talk you use in your thoughts. You need to identify this stinkin’ thinkin’ and change it. You can learn new ways of thinking. If you get frustrated and angry, it simply means that you have learned one lot of stinkin’ thinkin.’

A. Be encouraged

You can learn new ways, but there is no guarantee how long it will take you to unlearn thoughts that lead to anger. Don’t blame yourself for those early failures of angry outbursts. Previously you did not know what caused them and how to control them. Now you know differently. You can unlearn bad habits.

B. Discipline yourself

Consider this: It is easier to shut your mouth, quit blaming others, and change your stinkin’thinkin’ (that causes anger), than to live with the regrets of jail from an outburst of anger.

“To acquire self-discipline requires the realization that difficult tasks are better handled by facing them (regardless of how ugly and difficult they may be) than by avoiding them. Controlling your anger is sometimes among the most difficult acts you can perform. Be that as it may, do it!”[25]

C. Don’t make matters worse.

If somebody commits an injustice against you, the last thing in the world that you need is to create a greater injustice by getting frustrated or by letting fly in a rage. There are two ways to keep your cool when you are tempted to blow your top. Say to yourself:

1. I am not God and am disturbed if I think that I can always have my own way.

2. I must “be smart, someone is trying to shaft me. That’s bad enough, old boy. Surely you’re not going to be dumb now and do to yourself what that fellow is trying to do. No, sir! Maybe he doesn’t give a hoot about my feelings, but I sure do. Therefore, I’m going to forcibly talk myself out of the angry mood which is beginning to come over me. Having trouble is one thing, and it’s often unavoidable. But making double trouble for myself is another matter entirely.”[26]

D. “But it feels phoney.”

Sometimes people put it bluntly, “I feel as though I have to fake it. It seems phoney when I change my self-talk (stinkin’ thinkin’).” These people fail to realise that we engage in self-talk in our thinking much of the time. “What we must always remember about Self-Talk is that we do not create Self-Talk; we simply recognize that it is already there. . . Whenever we attempt to change patterns of thinking it is hard work. We would rather stay as we are than make the effort required to change. And basically, we really don’t like to change.”[27]

Some will say, “But it doesn’t work for me.” It takes a lot of practice to learn to be a reasonable swing bowler in cricket. Women who do crochet tell me that it takes quite a bit of practice to become competent in this art form. It’s much the same with changing your thinking about anything. When people say that “it doesn’t work,” ask them what they are doing to stop it from working? There are generally three reasons:

1. They are not taking the time to identify the demands they are making on themselves and others in their thinking;

2. They enjoy the stinkin’ thinkin’ (irrational beliefs) and don’t want to leave them go;

3. They are not questioning these demands of irrational beliefs consistently.[28]

Let’s face it. It takes time to change stinkin’ thinking’ and bring them into control by thinking on what is good, pure and lovely. Positive self-talk will lead to control of your anger.

“If you are still struggling with identifying the problems in your present Self-Talk, try this. Ask what you were telling yourself just as you got angry. Or ask yourself what you were saying in your mind just before you felt those pangs of guilt, or that panicky feeling of fear and anxiety. Identify what you said in your Self-Talk as you began to worry.”[29]

E. How it worked out for Kathy

Remember we met Kathy at the beginning of this article? She went off the deep end with anger when Danny her 13-year-old wouldn’t pick up his clothes and make his bed before going off to school.

In counselling, Kathy learned these principles and practised a thought-stopping exercise. Whenever she felt the adrenalin rising and she was about to scream at Danny, she slapped the fleshy part of her upper leg. (She could just as easily have shouted, “Stop,” in her head. Or, as some prefer, put a rubber band around your wrist and sting your arm to alert you to change your stinkin’ thinkin.’) This was her cue to stop to examine her irrational thinking. She was living out the typical sequence of stinkin’ thinkin’. In her head she said, “I must get what I want and it’s terrible and like the end-of-the-world when Danny doesn’t obey me. He’s a b . . . for not obeying me immediately. More than that, I’m his mother and he does not have the right to treat me like this. I must have my way. The little b.b. so-and-so.”

Notice the shoulds, musts and demands in her thinking. As long as she continued to think that way. She made herself angry. Danny did not make her angry.

In counselling, Kathy worked on quitting the demands she was making in her thinking. It seemed strange at first, but it became easier with daily practice. These were some of her thought changes:

1. Yep! It’s a bit frustrating when Danny won’t pick up his clothes at the first ask, but he’s not a b-b-so-and-so.

2. He’s a pretty normal teen. I chose to give him my lip, over and over. I’ve been acting like Mum the dictator. I will stop this talking in chapters to him. He’s a pretty normal teen.

3. Yes, I am his Mum, but I will ask twice – max. – and if he doesn’t pick up his clothes, they go into the locked Saturday Box which I open once a week on Saturday morning. I’ll give him one week’s notice that this is what will be happening.

4. If he insults me and swears at me when he is without clean clothes, I’ll sit down with him and calmly say what I have put into a written contract, “The Saturday Box will be used every week if clothes are left lying on your bedroom floor. I’ll pick them up after you go to school. It’s up to you, Danny, to decide if you want to go to school with a clean uniform or with clean regular clothes. If necessary, I’ll let the deputy principal of the high school know what I am doing.”

Kathy learned these anger management principles by thinking and saying things that controlled her anger with Danny. It took only a short time to do it (about a couple of months of learning), but in the span of life that is a short time-frame. She was able to apply the same principles with her other children.

VII. This is simple, but not easy.

The principles for controlling your anger are simple to explain and simple to practice: Nobody makes you angry. You can’t blame anybody else for your anger. (It would be nice if people treated you nicely, but you can’t make them do that.) You make yourself angry by the way you think about people and life. Change the shoulds, musts and other demands in your thinking and you control your anger. It is simple to explain but it is a challenge to practise it daily. There will be times when you forget some of what you learned here. At those times, if you have less frequent episodes of anger, your anger is less intense, and you are angry for shorter periods of time – you are making progress. If you have severe anger and now it only lasts for an hour instead of all day – you have improved.

To help you analyse your thoughts that lead to anger, use the “Self-Talk Analysis for Anger” below.

The principles are simple. The practice of self-control of your anger takes a short time to learn, but the benefits are lifetime. How committed are you to controlling your anger?

Self-Talk Analysis for Anger (Example)

Anger Activators
Shoulds/Musts or Demands
Restated as desires or wants
Danny lost his text book He should know better.He should have taken care of it sooner.

I shouldn’t have to tell (lecture) him.

I wish he would be more responsible.One of these days he will understand that he only hurts himself.

I sure will be glad when he takes care of these things without my help.


[1] This is a cognitive-behavioural approach to anger management, based on Rational-Emotive Therapy.

[2] Kathy is not her real name and enough details have been changed so that you would not recognise her. However, Kathy’s anger is typical of a lot of mothers of teenage children and how she learned to control it.

[3] Note: Most people say that they thought on something that made them happy, sad, angry and calm. When I want to make myself sad, I think of the day my father dropped dead at the age of 57. I enjoy Baskin & Robbins (USA) ice-cream. I can make myself very happy by thinking on some of the delightful B & R flavours I have enjoyed over the years. I can become angry by remembering that abusive woman I met when I returned those clothes that were too small. She screamed at me as if I had stolen $500.00 out of her handbag. What a b-b-so-and-so she was! I can make myself feel calm as I look across the calm waters of Hervey Bay when I visit on a gently warm Spring day.

[4] Based on Paul A. Hauck, Overcoming Frustration and Anger. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1974, pp. 15-24. This artoc;e is a cognitive-behavioural (Rational Emotive Therapy) approach to anger self-control.

[5] Philippians 4:8, New International Version of the Bible.

[6] Based on Hauck, pp. 26-33.

[7] These 6 steps are based on ibid., pp. 42-54.

[8] Hauck used the term, “Neurotically.”

[9] This section is based on Hauck, ch. 3, p. 61 ff.

[10] Ibid., p. 61, emphasis added.

[11] Ibid., p. 62.

[12] Ibid., p. 66.

[13] Ibid., p. 72.

[14] These points are based on ibid.

[15] Ibid., p. 76.

[16] Ibid., p. 84.

[17] Ibid., p. 85.

[18] Suggested by ibid., p. 86.

[19] Ibid., p. 88.

[20] Ibid., p. 104.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., p. 119.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Based on ibid., p. 123 ff.

[25] Ibid., p. 137.

[26] Ibid., p. 139.

[27] David Stoop, Life Can Be Great When You Use Self-Talk. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1982, pp. 149-50.

[28] Based on ibid., p. 151.

[29] Ibid., p. 152.


Copyright © 2009 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 January 2018

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