If you are not an evangelical Christian, you should probably skip this blog post. When I counsel unbelievers, there are many things they can learn from Scriptures without accepting all the pillars of the faith. However, the ideas I’m about to discuss are so steeped in Christian perspective that they may not make sense unless the reader has the same worldview.
The difficult thing, especially for those of us whose sins revolve around self-involvement, is that even when we do good things, we do them to benefit ourselves. This process is especially tricky when it comes to relationships. I am normally so inexcusably focused on myself that my motivations are at best murky. As a therapist and principal I have to watch that my goal for making parental (or professional) decisions is not to be approved of by whomever views my parenting, but that it is honestly to encourage my child to godlier in her behavior. As a member of a generation that has been repeatedly criticized as the worst to parent in recorded history, I stand guilty of putting myself before my child, even when I fooled myself into thinking I was putting my child’s needs before mine. To this end, I must ask myself some convicting questions.
- Am I putting my child’s comfort over my child’s character?
If my child is uncomfortable and not pleased with my decisions, others will know. If they know, they will be critical of my parenting. In addition, if my child isn’t comfortable, I have to deal with whining, rebellion, or other taxing behaviors. It is often easier to just give in.
With clients I have found this is a major temptations with mothers. Because mothers are by design nurturers, the tendency is to protect and defend those who challenge their children. We Christian fathers can assist by leading and discussing with our spouses when the nurturing is character building and when it stunts the maturity of our children. Sometimes it hurts a child more to be given what he/she wants than to do without. Are you aiding your child in being self-sufficient? Will he/she be a good employee?
2. Am I focused on tearing down those with whom I don’t agree? Or do I model Biblical restoration principles?
One of the most necessary aspects of the Christian community is the virtue of forgiveness. All of us have been on the need to give and the need to receive side of mercy and longsuffering. The modern Christian is often viewed as judgmental and bitter. Sometimes that perception is unavoidable; there here are certain tenets of the faith for which we must stand. The contemporary idea of tolerance is not a Biblical one (Luke 12: 51-52). However, I’m confused at why we so often have to assume so many people are our enemies. The school teacher is our enemy when she doesn’t grade papers quickly enough. The store manager is our enemy when we aren’t served quickly enough. The pastor is our enemy when he doesn’t preach the way we think he should. The Christian of the twenty-first century is an expert on just about every field from economics to literary criticism.
The effects of this hard-heartedness has a profound effect on our children. When we view ourselves as the consumer in every aspect of life, we expect to be pleased 100% of the time. We demand satisfaction in everyone from our physician to our church congregation, and when we disagree, we simply choose a provider that more effectively meets our needs. “I don’t want to create a stir” is usually the reason given as we refuse to approach those who offend us or whom we offend in a Matthew 18 manner. Our children notice. How will they act as adults? Are you aiding your child in being forgiving? Will he/she be a good spouse?
3. Do I gossip? No, do I really?
I’ve heard “venting” is the new gossip. We don’t gossip any more. We vent. I’ve looked for venting in the Bible, but I can’t find it. When we talk in complaint against someone who is not present instead of going to him/her, we gossip. I am praying for forgiveness as I type this. My generation has a lot to answer for in the way we have wounded children through our parenting, but one of those most damaging things we do is have our children listen to the filth that comes from our mouths. Not profanity—the filth of unproductive talk sandwiched in hatred. Are you aiding your child to be understanding? Will he/she be a good friend?
4. Do I resist the devil and pray for my child’s spiritual protection?
I have returned to an old classic book by A.W. Tozer in my private reading lately. In I Talk Back to the Devil, Rev. Tozer stresses the importance of prayer in our Christian life. This is an area I know I am weak in. Often, we dole out requests, without spending any of our time in worship, thanks, or confession. Our children are in a real battle. Whether they are in home school, private school, or government school, they are facing not only temptations, but a secular message that undervalues the young while simultaneously obsessing about youth. To properly pray for my child, I have to turn off the computer, stop looking at email, quit watching TV, and pray.
Are you aiding your child to be godly?
Will he/she be a godly person?