Practical Burden Bearing Pt:1

dirty-hands

We encouraged taking an active role in bearing the burdens of our close friends. Sometimes putting that into practice can be a bit daunting. What can you actually do to benefit your friend? Through the conversations you’ve been having with your friends, you should be picking up on what they struggle with on a regular basis, as well as learning which issues they may need a hand in combating. If you aren’t getting this information, maybe you need to work on getting past the surface level small talk and into the weighty issues of life in your conversations. Is it uncomfortable at first? Yes. Has talking about the weather and sports teams ever truly deepened a relationship? No. Once you’ve established a pattern with your friend of honestly discussing your struggles, it quickly becomes an environment of safety and acceptance. This safe and trusting environment is paramount to your becoming an active player in the life of your friend. None of us wants to even listen to, let alone heed, advice from a stranger. That makes sense, and it’s why we’re all a bit leery of a man in a windowless white van giving away puppies. It would be unwise to allow someone with no knowledge of your station in life, and no commitment to your well-being, to speak into your life with any substantive authority. However, once that hard-gained level of trust is established, steps of action are warranted.

Asking, “What can I do to help you?” may seem like the polite way to interject yourself into another man’s life. However, this man isn’t a stranger, and the reason for your interjection is to relieve him of some burden. Instead, make an offer: “After thinking through our past conversations and what we each struggle with, I’ve given this considerable thought and here’s what I’d like to do for you.” In doing this, you are bearing the weight of the burden, instead of asking your friend to do the leg work and ask you for help. All you’ve left on the table for them to deal with is whether or not they want to accept your offer. It’s a yes or no question. Do your “homework” on your friend’s needs, then jump in and get your hands dirty.

One of the most common things men struggle with is sex (with an emphasis on pornography). Today, let’s go over a concrete example of a way we can reach out to friends who struggle with the issue of pornography.

Keeping pornography out of your home, and off of your devices, is nigh on impossible on today’s internet…and that’s if you aren’t actively searching for it. If you or one of your friends struggle with this issue, one of the first steps you can take to kicking the habit is to limit access to questionable sites by using a content filter. OpenDNS is a content filtering service that can do this at the router level within your home. (manNERD Alert: things may get a bit technical here for a bit, but hang in there). First, we need to know how content gets from the world wide web all the way to your iPad, and then we’ll discuss how a content filter can intercept unwanted content.

When you click on a link to, or type in the name of, a particular domain (e.g. mannerd.com), your computer/tablet/phone uses something called the DNS (Domain Name System) to figure out where “mannerd.com” actually resides. It’s akin to saying, “I want to go to Johnny’s house.” Then the DNS pulls out a phone book and responds with, “Johnny’s house is located at 123 Main St.” The reason this is necessary is because Johnny, or mannerd.com, may have moved to a new location since the last time you visited. Because of the DNS, all you have to do is tell your device the “common” name of where you want to go, and it will use the system to make sure you get to the right place. Within the DNS, there are many different “phone books” known as nameservers. Whether you know it or not, you are using one right now. It’s probably the nameserver(s) specified by your internet service provider. Many routers allow you to change the default nameservers used within their configuration settings. The reason we would want to do this, is that by changing the nameservers used by the router we can affect every device that connects to the router. This means only having to configure one device, instead of changing the settings on every internet connected device you own.

OpenDNS is one of the “phone books” used to determine where a particular site is located. It functions as a content filter by keeping track of what sites host what type of content. So, let’s say you’re using a default OpenDNS configuration and you try to go to a site that is known to host pornographic content. Instead of letting you visit that site, OpenDNS will send you to an error page. That page will tell you why that content was blocked and that you can contact the network administrator if you believe it should be allowed. OpenDNS can also keep a log of sites accessed, as well as a log of sites that were blocked.

OpenDNS blocking a phishing site.

Within OpenDNS’s account configuration, you can specify what types of content you want to block, or you can choose from a few pre-configured settings. You can then fine-tune what is allowed (whitelisted), and what is blocked (blacklisted). For instance, the default “Moderate” settings block access to many forums, and we all know that all of the best car maintenance information is found on a forum. So, if you find that a site you frequent for legitimate purposes is blocked, you could whitelist that particular site. Conversely, if you find yourself straying to a particular site for less than noble purposes, you could blacklist that site (assuming it wasn’t already blocked). Earlier, we mentioned contacting a network administrator to allow access to sites that may be unnecessarily blocked. This is a second aspect of bearing a portion of this burden with your friend. It would make almost no sense to put a system like this in place, only to allow the person who struggles with online pornography access to the settings so they can just whitelist any site they want. It also would give them sole access to the logging capability, so who would ever find out?

If you’ve made it this far, consider offering to be your friend’s “network administrator.” You would be the password holder for the router’s configuration settings (where OpenDNS is specified as the primary nameserver), as well as for the OpenDNS account. When you’re friend decides they need access to a site, they’ll need to filter that decision making process through you. Sometimes that speedbump is all it takes to derail an urge before it becomes an action. Will this be inconvenient at times? Sure. But hey, it’s also inconvenient to help them move up three flights of stairs, and we still offer to do that (as long as pizza and beer are provided). If you have any questions about how to get this system set up in your home, feel free to ask us in the comment section. Or, check out the OpenDNS Support section.

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