If someone offered me the opportunity to turn back the hands of time and redo my life, the first answer to reach my lips would be a resounding, “NO!” It’s not that my life has been bad, but I am happy with where I am; I have no desire to return to my immaturity and learn life lessons all over again. However, on occasion, there are certain aspects of life I wish I could have done better, namely parenting.
Even before our marriage, I was determined to be the best parent I could be. I wasn’t going to yell; I wasn’t going to over-indulge; I was going to keep things in perspective and live according to God’s Word. Being human, I quickly found the biggest obstacle to being the parent I wanted to be, was me.
I still do my best not to yell; I am definitely not the over-indulging kind; and I try to live according to God’s Word. However, there has been a sickness in my parenting which has previously gone undetected; the disease of condemnation.
Somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that I was to be my children’s conscience. When they did something wrong, I was supposed to straighten them out and make them see the error of their ways. I was going to help their little consciences along with a good dose of judgement. In other words… make them feel bad for what they were doing.
Recently, I was re-reading an incredible book by Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy. In Mr. Willard’s book, he addresses the issue of condemnation.
“Condemnation always involves some degree of self-righteousness and of distancing ourselves from the one we are condemning. And self-righteousness always involves an element of comparison and of condemnation.”
Ironically, he explains that the result of condemnation is for us to be attacked on those very same terms. When we reproach our children for using harsh words toward their siblings, they condemn us for not being respectful toward our spouses. He reminds us that this behavior very rarely produces the results we are looking for and instead leads to greater harm.
Through reading this section of Mr. Willard’s book, I have come to realize something vital. In correcting my children’s behavior, I am to offer restoration. It is not my job to humble others, that is a job for the Holy Spirit. When I address an issue of discipline with my kiddos, the goal is to bring them back into a proper relationship with everyone else; I am not to ostracize them further.
So, how should I correct my children? Mr. Willard lays out a few steps which might help all of us. First, we need to decide what the problem really is. Second, I need to make sure I am the correct person for the job. Perhaps I need to step aside and let my man handle this situation. Third, I need to not straighten them out, but restore them to the family. Fourth, we need to restore with the mindset that we are all humans who sin and I too have issues that need repair.
You see? It’s not that the problem is being dismissed, but it is all in how the issue is handled. We are still working toward the same end goal, but with love, grace, and humility. I do not need to make my children ‘feel’ the weight of their mistake, but to offer them grace, forgiveness, and restoration. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can speak to their hearts and do the real work, I am just here to help bring that about.
Does this mean there are no consequences for my children’s actions? Of course not! Discipline needs to take place. However, our children will see that the consequences are a direct result of their own actions and not the lashing out of an angry parent. This is not about attacking them as a person, but working together to help them avoid future failure.
As a parent, I need to understand that my children are a gift. They are not merely physical, but spiritual beings. They are not responsible to me for their actions, but to God alone. It is to Him they are accountable and to Him they should be restored. Who am I to condemn?
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,…” – Romans 8:1