It doesn’t work. Trust me. Don’t try it. Yet I keep doing it. Over and over again. Each time, hoping to get a different result. But it’s always the same: FAIL. Shut down. Defensiveness. Anger. Walls up. Who wants to be told what is best for them, what they should do, or what areas they need to improve? Yet there is something in me that just can’t keep quiet. I love them and want the best for them. So what do I do? Take on the role of the Holy Spirit. But a gentle nudge never seems to be enough. So I bump it up a notch and try to change them with my words. If only they knew what they needed to change, they wouldn’t keep doing it. I assume that it is my job to enlighten them and help them see the error of their ways. And if they don’t listen, I will try again. This time, from a different angle. And boy can I be persistent. Constantly bearing down on them with the burdensome weight of my holy conviction, patiently longing for them to see the error of their ways.
I haven’t had a ‘repentant response’ to my omniscient words of wisdom yet. I’ll let you know when I do.
How This Plays Out in Marriage
Those of us who are wives tend to believe we know what’s best for our husbands. And well, a lot of the time, we DO! We live with them day in and day out. We study them. We get a front row seat. We are their experts. We are fully aware of their strengths, as well as their
glaring weaknesses. Therefore, why the heck should we not be the ones to ‘help’ them see the error of their ways? Why the heck should we not ‘gently correct’ them when they are wrong? Isn’t that part of our job description?
Yes. There are times when we are called to gently speak the truth in love. But somehow, I forget about the gentle loving part. I know how to speak the truth alright. It may be more of a faucet-drip-drip-dripping truth. Or a finger-pointing truth. But oh, it’s the truth. And he needs to hear it. From me. Because I am all knowing and I am usually (almost always) right. And once he hears the truth, he will change. For some reason, he doesn’t respond well to that approach.
How This Plays Out in Friendship
I have a tight-knit circle of friends with whom I am willing to engage in conflict with when I feel the need to do so, as do they. We have actually committed to do this in one another’s lives. Well, along with loving, encouraging, serving, having fun and being committed to one another for the long-term, no matter what our differences may be (for more about our story: My Community).
This creates a teeny tiny bit of a challenge: while we fully buy into the concept of ‘speaking the truth in love’ to one another and not stuffing issues under the rug, when it plays out in real time, it ain’t always pretty. Why? Because we are flawed humans who are ‘gifted’ with seeing the weaknesses in others but not so gifted at seeing our own. You know, the whole speck vs. log in your own eye kind of thing.
I find it usually goes one of two ways: 1) what is meant to be a ‘speak the truth in love’ session turns into a judgment-heavy beat-down that ends with pissed off or crying victims, or 2) the person that feels frustration/hurt/tension decides to remain silent and avoid a confrontation, but to cope with that tension, they go around gossiping about it to everyone else to justify their hurt, or they avoid the person altogether or (my personal favorite) they passive-aggressively tease the person in public about their ‘issue’ where you tend to get away with saying slightly mean but truthful things just to get a laugh. Rarely does anyone want to do the hard work of engaging in a real, honest, seek-to-understand kind of conversation. It takes time, energy and quite a bit of humility, if you are going to do it well.
How this Plays Out in Parenting
This is a tricky one for me. Because we are the authority over our children. They are looking to us to understand how life works and what their role is in it. Every parent brings their own hopes and dreams for their children, but for the most part, we want them to be responsible, loving people who contribute to society.
The challenge: when our kids don’t say or do what we want, we often use punishment, lectures and anger to control their behavior. Hear me out: I am not against discipline. Just punishment. Punishment is usually done with the intention of forcing someone to submit to your will. It is often focused on outward behavior. Discipline is done with the intention to teach and to train, with less of a focus on behavior and more of a focus on what’s going on inside their little heart. There’s a difference. And sometimes, it’s a fine line. And in all honesty, I choose the former over the latter a lot of times because I am just plain lazy. It’s a whole heck of a lot easier to raise your voice from the couch than walk into their room, get down on their level and lovingly talk them through what is about to become a nuclear meltdown.
When I think of how God teaches me, it is often through repetition. Mistakes. Failures. Hitting my head against a wall. Over and over again. Over long periods of time. But oh, He is so gentle. Never mean-spirited or condescending. Very patient. Quietly waiting for me to come to Him. I will make the same mistake time and time again before I finally acknowledge I need His help, that I can’t change the issue on my own. I finally start praying about it. Isn’t that what we want to teach our kids? Not to shut up and behave in order to avoid punishment, but to acknowledge when they are wrong, when there is ‘sin’ (a.k.a. rebellion, self-centeredness, pride) and ask God for help. There is a beautiful humility gained through that process.
From a Christian perspective, I desire for my children to experience the utter awe and incredible humility that I have experienced as I grasp (and continue to grasp) what Jesus did on the cross on my behalf. He paid a debt I could never pay. He rescued me from myself. I always knew, in my gut, that I couldn’t earn my way into His good mercies, that there was something blocking a relationship with Him, and it was my own sin. But He provided a way. Yet, He will never force anyone to choose Him. What a loving and gracious God!
The Root of Playing God
Pride. Plain and simple. I play God because I think I know best. I assume my way is the right way. But am learning that perhaps, God knows better than I do what he needs. And that perhaps, I should pray more and talk less. And when I do feel the need to speak the truth in love, I come to him in humility, knowing that I am in the same boat – a sinner in need of a Savior.
Jesus, help me to love my family and my friends in a way that is truly loving them. Help me not make it about me or my desires for them or my annoyance with their personal quirks. Help me to love them into the people you have designed them to be, knowing that we are all on a journey and that one day, we will be fully complete, our truest selves, free from sin and sickness and sadness, and oh, it will be glorious. Until then, help me be patient and allow others to shape me just as you allow me to shape others, not pointing at each other, but pointing towards You and Your loving, everlasting mercy and grace. Thank you for loving me. Amen.