Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Obedience, Disobedience - Depends on your Worldview - 21st Century Parenting

What is obedience? This answer depends on your Worldview. This is an issue my husband and I have been reassessing as our children grow into adults. We are reflecting on our own choices and experiencing the consequences. We are also learning to improve our own choices to be better parents.

The the big questions that most people have pondered at some time in their life are: Who gets to decide? Who makes up the guidelines, the rules, the moral code? Who decides what is right or wrong?

Even the atheist or agnostic has decided on some kind of base system of a moral code, such as:

It is wrong to kill your neighbor.
It is wrong to walk up to a person and take what is his.
It is wrong to make up lies to defame a person, to spread false rumors and damaging gossip.
It is wrong to have sex with your child, your relative.

Almost everyone in a society of civilized people can agree on these. They seem fair to all.

But beyond this, the rules of wrong are harder to categorize. Most people in our American society believe that a person has a freewill and, thereby, a right to choose their own course in life -- and, indeed, they do. God created all humans with freewill. Yet, sadly, all humans do not know they were created by God this way. And just as sad, some who do know that they were created by God with freewill misuse this gift.

As a parent with children becoming adults we have been learning in a deeper way how to release our children to God and let them develop their own answers to these big questions. This does not happen without growing pains in our own heart.

Our Affect on Others

No one lives in a vacuum. The act of our will has a ripple effects on others. We are all in relationship to others. If I take all of something to indulge, then nothing is left for the next person. If I play an acoustical, music instrument very loud, then everyone within hearing distance is affected. If a parent uses drugs or alcohol, the family's finances are affected; and if the parent can't handle liquor, is addicted or abusive, other people are drastically hurt.

In the same way, children can also have a big effect on their family. The consequences to their actions rebound throughout the family. As a parent, we are learning to limit the negative consequences of one child's own choices on the rest of the family, especially to the other siblings. It is our responsibility to do what is within our power for the good of everyone in the family.

While all actions have consequences, people don't often realize that thoughts can have consequences, also. This is because our mind is the birthing place of future actions. The Bible teaches us to take captive every thought and bring it to God. Allowing our mind to be examined by God is a beginning point to changing our actions. The consequences to our thoughts are not immediate. Usually they can be felt once our thoughts are brought forth into actions.

Most people want to ignore the fact that their actions have consequences; they want to receive the positives in life regardless of what they do or do not do. For example, people want to eat regardless of whether they work or not. This is a pretty new concept that eating is considered a right, not a benefit of work. People are dependent upon others for too long of a time--whether it is children in a home or 'the poor' in a society. A child's dependence on his parents needs to grow smaller as a person ages. A teenager should be developing strong independence and thinking skills. While a parent may still needs to coach their child into their 20s, a child should not be rescued from the consequences of their actions.

While we gave our children a lot of independence in making choices to become the person God created to be, we did not require enough responsibility from them. This is something we have had to learn the hard way.

Entitlement Versus Empowerment

The desire to fulfill basic needs has--since the beginning of mankind--been the motivating catalyst in the structure of society, even in the small "institution" of a family. When a child is first born, all of his needs must be met by others. Detrimentally, in our current society, people expect others to meet most of their needs for decades--even for generations. Food, clothing, shelter and protection from harm are the baseline of needs. Gradually, even a child should be expected to become responsible, helpful, respectful and industrious. It is important for humans to learn at a very young age that they are not to live dependent upon others, but instead that their own actions alter the outcomes in their life.

Entitlement is destroying our society. And, it begins in the home. I am guilty for not installing a strong, work ethic in my children. I focused more on being a provider and a protector then teaching my children to be empowered by receiving the consequences of their choices.

Cause and Effect

A person is empowered when they are taught that their actions are the cause that creates an outcome.

 God instituted this principle with the first two children He created. Before disobedience ever was part of the world and its negative consequences had occurred, He gave his children work to do. God works and knows that work is a meaningful part of living. We have separated the concept of work to be "bad" and play to be "good. In learning about child development during college, I was taught that play was children's work. Indeed, children do learn a lot about life through playtime, but they also need to be given meaningful responsibilities. If a child is idle, he literally shrivels up not only physically becoming atrophic but also emotionally developing detachment: a flat, lifeless psychological affect. Every human was created for a purpose, discovering it is the key to finding personal meaning in life.

God also instituted a very simple rule of warning his two children not to take the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He wanted them to be innocent of evil and to only bask in goodness. It is a parents' heart to be like God; we want to protect our children from the harms of evil as long as we can. We know some actions and choices have painful consequences, and therefore, we want to prevent as much pain in our precious children as possible. It is for this reason alone that a good parent sets up rules. Depending on one's worldview, a parent will determine which rules should be enforced. 

Holy Standard

Believers, followers of Jesus Christ, have a distinct worldview; they live by the standards set forth by God to protect his children from the harmful consequences of evil. When we obey God, He can funnel blessings through us so that we can in turn bless others. BUT when we choose to not obey God (His basic standards written in the Bible), we will receive the negative consequences. Christian parents will come to a point in childrearing that they must decide if they love God more than their own child. At first, that can sound cold or harsh, but when big decisions must be made on how to respond to actions of a child, a Christian parent has to determine if God's standards of holiness are going to be firmly established or if they will be ignored in favor of not causing a child to be uncomfortable, affected negatively or indulged.

As a parent, I have learned that it can be heartbreaking to stand for what is right in the eye's of God. God's ways are not popular today and a parent that holds to His standards will be viewed by most as unloving, unreasonable and wrong. It is then that parents must ask themselves, "Who am I going to please?" Do I want to be approved by man or God? Am I going to remain steadfast to the narrow road  of godliness or condone the wide path in life? Is my relationship with my child more important than my relationship with Jesus? If my child willingly chooses to disobey God, will I provide the means for unholy choices?

Unless there is something emotionally or mentally wrong with the parents, they naturally long to bless their children. Parents want their children to have good lives and to be happy. But sometimes, in order to be a godly parent, I have learned that I will have to endure the pain of showing love that is tough. Tough love is not uncaring or done to inflict pain on the one you love; quite the opposite, tough love is painful to give because it restrains natural inclinations to rescue, restore and rush changes. Tough love is love that endures all things, hopes all things and bears all things. Tough love never fails. Tough love does not give in to emotions such as false guilt or pity. While it might not feel good in the present time to do, it will bear fruit for eternity and in that hope a parent must trust God and rest upon His Word.

You might also enjoy reading Without a Compass - How do you live?

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