See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:24
I’ve been using my Lenten devotional, “With Our Savior,” with my kids each night at dinner. It’s generated some amazing conversations, some on topic, some not. In the process, my kids have revealed some things about themselves they’ve never put into words before. That’s God for you: He works wonders whenever we turn to Him, especially when we do so as a family.
One conversation had Mason revealing he cares too much about what other people think. It’s effecting him, and he’s buckling under the weight of it. Zack, on the other hand, admitted other people’s opinion of him doesn’t matter at all. After years of kids being unkind to him, he’s pulled back that part of himself that cares, slammed the door, locked it, and threw away the key.
It’s pretty amazing when you have two kids, raised in the same house, by the same parents, who end up on complete opposite ends of any given issue. That’s where we parents have to come in, gently guiding each of them back to center. I started with Zack the next day.
I brought the issue up in the best place for any conversation with a teen: in the car. When it’s just the two of us, in the dark, both facing forward, it’s easier to connect. There’s a finite period of time so he doesn’t feel trapped, and I have no choice but to be concise, no matter how prone I am to drone on and on.
Before we event left the garage, I drew a blob of a person with spikes jutting out everywhere. I used the visual to explain that we’re all born with sharp edges. God knows what’s best for us and allows people and situations to come our way that bump up against those sharp edges. In those instances, we have to remain open, not defensive. If we close ourselves off, we remain jagged, going through life wounding others.
Instead, we need to ask ourselves if the problem is us or them. Those who ask this of themselves continue to grow, ultimately soften, and find true joy. Those who don’t ask themselves this question get stuck, creating misery for themselves and everyone they come in contact with.
No one wants to be around a person who thinks everyone else is at fault and never them. Not only do they bring us down, but they’ll eventually cut us deeply in the crossfire of their blame game.
The answer to the question is just as critical. If the other person is the problem, our job is to pray grace over them and move on. However, if we’re the problem, we need to get to work and make the necessary changes in ourselves that will smooth out that rough spot.
I give immense kudos to my son for seemingly listening to every word I said. It’s never easy hearing we need to change. But he did so with ears wide open.
The next step in the process will be much harder. But I love my son too much to forego the hard job of helping him work through this process. Not only will it make him a better person in the short-term, but it will put him on the path of growing into the person God is calling him to be.
Questions for Reflection:
* When conflict arises in my life, do I ask myself whether the problem could be me?
* Have I taught my kids to do the same?
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God bless you and Zack, Claire, as you help him. I am so proud of him, that the bad behavior of others hasn’t changed his loving and kind ways!! xo
As am I, Mom! For a teenager, he really is amazingly loving and kind. I feel like I hit the jackpot!
Claire, once again, I am moved by your parenting here, lovingly guiding and teaching so wisely both Zach and Mason when they admitted to you how they each reacted (in opposite ways) to those inevitable and most painful of experiences, the desperate need to be accepted by their peers or anyone else in their world. If all parents could follow your example, there would be no greater gift they could do for their children, a lifetime gift, if the children would trust and make an effort to follow their wise parents’ advice. I loved how you directed your children toward balance, to Zach, not closing off and throwing away the key when criticized, but suggesting he look inward with God’s Loving help to see what he maybe should and could change within himself, and to Mason, whom you implied also needed guidance, maybe not to so complacently convince himself that criticism from others didn’t bother him, but possibly to discover his authentic gifts from God that would give him a true confidence, one growing out of gratitude to God for these gifts, rather than a confidence growing out of selfish pride. What you’ve hit on here with your sons is the human condition we all experience throughout our lives on earth, and we never stop, with God’s help, growing and changing to be the sons and daughters He’s called us to be. How blessed your sons Zach and Mason are, and your daughter Jocelyn too, to get such an early start in this sacred journey of self discovery, so lovingly, patiently and wisely directed by a loving, dedicated and spirit filled mom!
Thank you, Jackie, for your love and support. If you could please pray that I have the follow-through to actually carry out the lessons that each of my boys need to learn about how to journey back to center, and to God, I’d be very grateful!