Choosing Growth Over Bitterness

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.   James 1:2-4

7 20 17 with word overlayI took my kids out to lunch at a local restaurant last week. We sat in a big circular booth by the front window. As we played Story Cubes together, I saw car after car drop kids off in the parking lot, and drive away. Then the big group of boys and girls came in, and all squeezed into the circular booth right beside us.

I saw Zack whisper something to Mason. But other than that, the group had no impact on him at all. When it came time for him to tell a story he made up based on the pictures he rolled on the Story Cubes, he was his usual self, no awkwardness whatsoever.

When we got in the car, I asked Zack if he knew that group of kids. I was completely surprised when he said they were from his grade, and sometimes gave him a hard time.

I don’t know about you, but if I were in middle school and out with my family when a group of bullying peers came in, I would have been all kinds of uncomfortable. In fact, even though I hung out with the “cool kids” in school, whenever the group was girls and boys, I was always self-conscious and awkward. It amazed me that Zack wasn’t in the least.

When I asked him about it, he said, “I used to care. But enough kids have been mean to me that I don’t care what anyone thinks of me anymore.” And he meant it.

At the same time that my heart was breaking for him, I had the utmost admiration for him too. It took me until I was in my forties to reach the point where I no longer cared what others thought. It’s the most freeing feeling in the world. Imagine being just twelve years old and getting there already?

As only God can time these things, our priest had just given a sermon on “adversity building character.” His point was, we all have a choice when we bump up against an issue. We can either choose to become bitter, or we can choose to find the lesson in the hardship, and then grow from what we learn. Clearly my son chose to learn and grow.

As we drove home from the restaurant that day, I told Zack how enormously proud I was of him. I also told him that although I wish he hadn’t had to go through what he did, he was now thirty years ahead of me in the not-caring-what-people-think department. Kudos to him!

If we could, every single one of us mothers would take our kids’ pain on ourselves. But that isn’t God’s plan. Not only does He want to perfect us, He wants to perfect our children too. Since we all learn more from the difficult than we do from the easy, our kids will have hardships to face, whether we like it or not. As they are happening, the best we can do is be there beside them, and pray them through to the other side.

Questions For Reflection:
 
     * Is there something difficult one of my kids is going through right now that is beyond my control? 
 
     * Can I help my child find the lesson in the pain, and help him/her grow from it?
 
     * Is there something difficult I’m going through right now that is beyond my control?
 
     * Is it possible for me to see the lesson in the pain, and grow from it?
 
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4 thoughts on “Choosing Growth Over Bitterness

  1. God bless Zack! He is the sweetest kid and it breaks my heart that anyone would be that mean. I guess some kids can truly be cruel. Ignoring their bad behavior is a good strategy. I am so very proud of him! He is lovable, kind and a pleasure to be around! Please give him a huge hug from me!! xo

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    • I sure will, Mom. I know that part of the reason he’s so grounded in who he is is because he has a grandmother like you who loves him no matter what. Thank you so much for that!!

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  2. I fall into the category of wanting to take on my children’s hurt. If I could bubble wrap them emotionally I probably would. The thought that I may be taking away from the growth that God has planned for them did not occur to me.

    As a mom I think we find it difficult not to do something that helps our child feel better, work through. I forget sometimes prayer is doing something. It’s as active as covering a scrape with a band aid. Thank you for the reminder.

    So proud of your son. I too was in my forties when I cared less what others thought of me (I fall into the trap a lot less but to be honest I still do stumble) My initial response is the daydream of me standing up in front of any child’s offender and bringing them to the light in how wrong they are about their treatment of the child. Not realistic. Trying hard each time not to hold bitterness but allow the growth that God has planned on both sides.

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    • Liz, thanks so much for your honest and heartfelt response. I love the “wanting to bubble wrap them” line… I think we all wish we could. But your line about prayer being the action we can take to protect our kids and help them grow resonated even more. There really isn’t any action more powerful than that. Your kids are so fortunate to have you. 🙂

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