Monday, September 16, 2013

Hidden Consequences to Hiding From Your Kids

I recently had an argument with my wife in front of my kids.  Well, let me correct that, I recently over reacted in a conversation with my wife in front of my kids and I enticed my wife into an argument that resulted in me walking into the garage and staring at my freezer.  Moments later my kids came out into the garage and gave me a hug followed by my wife who informed me the kids had decided, “Daddy needs a hug, from mommy too”.  My kids are 6 and 2.  So not only did I misbehave in front of my kids, I behaved in such an immature manner that it was even obvious to them.  That realization coupled with the hugs of my kids effectively melted my heart and demanded an apology from me, not only to my wife but to my children as well.

“If it’s not a behavior I want my children to possess, it should be a behavior I don’t want to possess”

While I’m certainly not proud of my behaviors that day, I have given that situation a lot of thought.  Did I drop the ball in parenting my children because I argued with their mother in front of them?  Did I just example to them how they are allowed to talk to their mother?  I have often heard parents claim that they go out of their way to keep from arguing in front of their kids.  They will often boast the fact that “our kids have never seen us argue”.  Is it healthier to hide the bad and display only the good for my kids?  If that is true, is it also true for my marriage? Should I hide things from my wife that might show me to be something other than what I want her to think I am?  What about at work?

After much deliberation, the following are reasons why I will not hide from my children when I’m disagreeing with my wife or anyone for that matter. 

#1 – What are you saying or doing in your argument that your children should not witness?  If it’s not appropriate for your kids to hear then it’s not appropriate at all!  I’m amazed at how many people have an age limit on appropriate behavior.  With society’s age based legalization of driving, drinking, and smoking, somehow morality got thrown into that mix as well.  When you are old enough to drive you are old enough to cuss… or is it when you are old enough to drink you are allowed to cuss… I can’t remember. 
Why do people even say “not around the kids”?  Isn’t it because we are trying to convey to them the right way to behave by not exposing them to wrong behaviors.  If it’s a behavior that I do not want my children to possess as adults, shouldn’t it be a behavior I do not want to possess as an adult?

#2 – Have a little self-control.  If the reason you are ushering your children out of the room for your arguments is so you can have more freedom to say what you want, then it sounds like you are creating an environment in which you are free to lose control.  What is the age that your children are allowed to stop losing control?  How long does a couple have to be married before they are allowed to quit treating one another with the common courtesies they extend to strangers?

“My arguments with others should example… proper speaking and behavior.”

#3 – If your kids never see you argue they’ll also never see you make up.  This can create in them an incorrect assumption that it is never ok to disagree with someone.  If they ever do disagree with someone then they are not going to know how to bring it to a healthy resolution.  Instead what we’ve effectively done is teach our children the importance of avoiding conflict.  Then we wonder why they get mad and retreat to their bedroom and won’t talk to us when they become teens.  When you usher your kids out of the room so you can have a conflict you are cheating them out of a learning opportunity to show them, nay, that examples for them, the proper way to argue or disagree and how to make up. 

My arguments with others should show observers that even when you are angry there is a proper way to speak and behave.  I should be modeling what it looks like to ask for forgiveness for raising my voice, storming out, or just being nasty and how to be the one to forgive.  If my conflicts aren’t teaching my children healthy behaviors and expressions of emotions then maybe what I need is to work on being a better example and stop hiding from my need for improvement.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Solution or A Distraction, How Can I Tell?

I frequently interact with people who find themselves or their marriages in crisis.  I’m not so naïve to think that I’m stop #1 on their journey to healing, in fact I’m often a last option to ease the conscience so they can say “well, at least we tried pastoral counseling, the church, etc.”.  They will often detail how they’ve tried talking to friends and family, other pastors, counselors, how they’ve read so many books and nothing seems to be working.  I can’t help but wonder why they are now talking to me, do they honestly believe that I am so much wiser and more competent than all those who tried to help them before?  Answer: no.  One of two things is happening.  They are either looking for a magical formula that will fix everything for them or they have become addicted to the distractions of a “new solution”. 

“The rush of a new experience can often overshadow its lack of effectiveness”

When couples find a new counselor or parents read a book with a new parenting strategy there is often an increase in energy and sense of hope that brightens their darkness for a moment.  The rush of a new experience can often overshadow its lack of effectiveness.  Consider the rebound relationship.  A new relationship temporarily distracts from the issues that brought about the demise of my previous one.  A new church or move to a new area gives the feeling of a fresh start when it really only places more urgent needs to the head of the queue for attention, the old ones are still there, just not as noticeable for a time.  How many marriages dissolve once the children move out?  The greatest reason is because the problem areas of the marriage were shuffled out of sight in order to focus on the more pressing issues of raising children.  Once the distraction of raising children was gone, the problem area resurfaces and couples end up throwing away decades of life and relationship

“Is the solution addressing my issue or distracting me from it?"

New advice, new strategies, and new methods easily put the focus on doing something else and can temporarily seem effective without actually addressing the things that truly need fixing.  Fad diets are a great example of this quick easy fix that seems to work for a time only to fail the test of longevity.  Simply shuffling problems to a less noticeable area of ones life is not the same as fixing that problem.  Hiding within the busyness of the new and fresh cheats us out of ever truly growing or developing beyond what caused us to look for a solution in the first place. 

So how can we tell if a solution is working or just distracting?  Ask yourself these questions.  Is this new solution addressing my issue or distracting me from it?  Am I still afraid to think about the problem areas of my life?  If new solutions require me to interact with the problem areas instead of offering me a guilt free way to distract from them then chances are that solution is one worth your time to see through.  People addicted to new solutions tend to run away from real solutions because they don’t want to or aren’t ready to face the hard issues in their lives.  The true challenge is to not quit when I don’t like what a solution is revealing about me.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Truth Is True... Except When It's Not

Truth is a powerful commodity.  Possessors of truth have the upper hand in business dealings and in marital conflicts.  The power of truth is that it is unchanging and universal which allows it to be foundational.  Truth guarantees outcomes.  It keeps planes in the air and boats above the water.  Decisions made in the absence of truth can sink a business, ruin a marriage, and destine a church for failure.  I believe there are absolute truths; saved people go to heaven, gravity keeps me from floating away, and my wife will forever have the advantage in arguments because her memory is better than mine.  But what happens when truth isn’t true?

"If you want to infuriate your spouse and discourage your employees... then demand your methods"

The Book of Acts chapter 13 details an encounter between Paul, one of the premier patriarchs of Christianity, and a sorcerer named Elymus who was opposing the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In this interaction Saul (later known as Paul) proclaimed blindness on the sorcerer as a sign of the punishment of God for his opposition of truth.  Prior to Saul’s conversion he was an enemy of Christians, hunting and killing them in order to prevent the spread of Christianity.  What I find interesting is that Saul was stricken with blindness by the Lord, which ultimately led to his being converted to Christianity.  I wonder if Saul’s use of blindness on the sorcerer wasn’t partly driven by a belief that if the sorcerer experienced what Saul experienced then it would lead him to Christ as well.  The truth for Saul was that blindness from God can bring someone to faith in Jesus Christ.  There is no record of the sorcerer’s conversion to Christianity.  What was truth for Saul was not true for the sorcerer.  While the message of Jesus Christ was the same, the method of conversion was not.

"People teach what they know"

People teach what they know and a lot of what we know we have been taught. But when people learn through experience they are often more passionate about the truths revealed to them in those moments and they consider themselves experts of those truths.  Leaders can become convinced that if you will do what they did then you can achieve the same level of success they achieved.  Spouses can believe that what communicates love and appreciation to them is how their spouses should perceive love and appreciation (see Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages).  It seems the common belief is that “what worked for me will work for you”.  If you have ever heard someone tell you how they treat their spouse, how they raised or punished their children, how they grew their business or how they became successful then you have heard someone share with you their truth of method.  Desperate followers and desperate husbands and wives eagerly embrace the exacting formulas offered by “truth experts” in hopes that this truth method will also prove true in their lives.

Truth is true, except when it’s not.  What was true for you is not necessarily true for others.  What things you did/do to bring you success worked for you, your personality, your character, your strengths but they may not work for others.  In fact they most likely will not work for the majority of others.  The way you perceive and give love, while it is true for you, may not be true for your spouse or your children.

"The message of Jesus Christ was the same, the method of conversion was not"

If we’re not careful we can become so enamored with the power of our own experiential truths that we condemn others for not for embracing them too.  Different does not equal wrong.  If I don’t embrace your truth it doesn’t mean I won’t succeed, it just means I won’t be you.   If you want to infuriate your spouse and discourage your colleagues and employees, then demand your methods.  If you want to be a developer of others, then be aware of the people around you and the ways they are different and help them experience and embrace the truth that works for them.  Just to be clear, God’s truths revealed in scripture are absolute truths; our experiential truths are not always absolute.