My “To Do” List
For many years I have had the habit of making a weekly “To DO” list. This process helps me organize and prioritize the things I want to get done and keeps me focused. It also serves as a way to evaluate how I have invested my valuable time.
This week, just as I have done many times, I have included “Encourage someone daily” on my list. Why do I do this? First, as a believer, it is imperative that I show concern for the needs of others. And, given the times we are in, everyone could use a friendly “How are you doing?” or “I’m praying for you” message.
Another reason why I do this is that I’m repaying a debt of gratitude for all those people whose words and actions have helped and encouraged me to face various challenges and disappointments that threatened to dissuade me from my goals. My memories take me to my parents, church members, teachers, pastors, a college president, businessmen and women, employers and colleagues who have blessed my life with words and actions that showed a sincere interest in me. I’m sure my journey would have been much more difficult had those people not made the effort to encourage me.
I regret not recognizing the impact many of these people had on my life and not thanking them before they departed us. However, their memories live on and continue that ministry of encouragement. I am grateful for these folks and want to continue to do what I can to let others know they are being remembered in prayer and that I will do what I can to help in practical ways.
By the way, I woke up this morning feeling a bit lonely, low energy, isolated and generally out of touch with God. Getting “out of myself” and sending an encouraging text, making a call or writing a note is one of the surest ways I have found to cure blues.
It is quite likely you know someone who needs and encouraging word or action from you today. Make the effort. You never know just what such an action will do to lift their spirit and instill the courage they need to keep moving ahead.
God bless you.
Many who are followers of Jesus will begin celebrating Advent Season this month. Advent is the recognition of the single greatest even in human history, the moment when God became incarnate to address the greatest need of human existence. Jesus, God in human form, came to bring me and you into the very presence of and fellowship with God through the forgiveness he provides through his death and resurrection.
Forgiveness always involves suffering on the part of the one who forgives. It means to take within yourself the hurt imposed by another. As a parent, spouse or friend you have suffered at the hand of those you love. Forgiving those who hurt you is a costly thing. You have to endure pain if you forgive someone. You take that pain within yourself without holding the other person accountable or seeking revenge.
Now think about that idea and how it relates to Christmas, the Advent Season. Christmas is about the cost God is willing to pay, what he is willing to suffer to restore a broken fellowship, to save us from our self and the wreck sin will make of our life. Our sin brought Jesus into the world and our sin put him on the cross because God loves us so much he was and is willing to give his only begotten son in order that we can be forgiven.
While we enjoy the trappings of Christmas and being with those we love, let’s remember that Christmas is really about the cost of forgiveness.
How emotionally mature are you? What if someone treated you the way you treat others? Would you feel happy, angry, disappointed, important or encouraged? Have you had someone hurt you by their careless remark or act? Have you considered that your words and actions have a powerful effect on others? This is especially true with your child. To a large degree your child’s sense of himself comes from his interpretation of your words and actions toward him.
No one can be perfect, we all make mistakes. However, being mindful of the power of our influence should cause us to use great care about our words and actions.You may have great difficulty controlling your emotions and say and do careless and hurtful things, things not easily forgotten by your child.
The problem I have encountered is that some of us are hardly more emotionally mature than children. They are physically grown but emotionally stuck in a childish or adolescent emotional pattern. They pout and sulk when they don’t get their way. They explode or withdraw when they get angry. The children of this immature, childish kind of parent are often damaged by this emotionally toxic environment. Solution: grow up. Get help.
An important part of being emotionally mature is to acknowledge your mistakes and hold yourself responsible for your actions. It is important to understand a few basic principles about being responsible: First, your child (or anyone else) doesn’t make you angry. Anger is your choice. You own it and it is yours. Second, what you do with your emotions is your responsibility. You are accountable for how you act and what you say. Third, to change irresponsible behavior you must acknowledge your wrong and fix it with the other person. After a sincere apology or two you may begin to discover how distasteful your behavior is and discipline yourself in order to change it.
Emotionally mature love seeks to do what is in the best interest of the other person. The way you handle your frustrations with him will go a long way in building positive relationships.
What dream or expectations do you have for your kid? Caution. You are probably well-meaning and only want the best for your child but be sure you know if you are imposing your dream on your child. When you put you child in a position to repeat your accomplishments or to accomplish something you did not you may be using him for your own end. This is unhealthy love. Please allow me to share with you a very common way in which this can happen.
Healthy love does not attempt to fulfill your dream through your child. It is easy to understand how a parent might unconsciously try to live his life through his child. Most parents want the best for their child. Many want their children to have life as good as or better than they did growing up. They want them to have opportunities for education and success that they may have struggled for. The bottom line is they often want life to be easy for their child.
There is nothing wrong with wanting good things and success for your child. But, you may need to think hard about your definition of success and what is involved in accomplishing it. Parents tend to define success according to our own struggles and experiences. This can be a real trap as we think about dreams for our child. This can set us up to try to live out our dreams, accomplish things we didn’t do, and build a name for our self through our child.
Here are some reminders which may help you avoid trying to fulfill your dreams through your child.
First, true and lasting success is found only in our relationships with God, our self and others ( Matthew 22:34-40).Does this biblical concept guide your understanding of real success?
Second, your child is a gift to you. He is not your property or an instrument you can use to fulfill your dreams or make up for your disappointments in life. He belongs to God and to himself.
Third, God has a plan for your child and has chosen you as his parent to help him become all God intended him to be.
Many children grow old striving to fix that deficit in their parent’s life but never receive the sense of approval and acceptance they so desperately seek. A child needs acceptance and the right to be himself and pursue his own dreams rather than to feel obligated to fix the disappointments or fulfill dreams of his parent. To attempt to live for a parent is an emotional dead-end street.
Is it healthy to be your child’s “best friend”? If you want to love your child in a way that is good for him you need to avoid things that may harm him. Being his “best friend” is one of those things you need to avoid.
Being your child’s “best friend” is not a part of healthy love. Your child needs you to be his parent. You are not equals. You are the authority for your child and both of you should always understand that boundary. One day you may become your child’s “best friend” but this is reserved for a time when you are both grown and they are no longer under your authority.
This may sound harsh but it is for your child’s good that you not make decisions based on whether or not he/she will agree with or like you for what you do. Your love for your child should have a balance of friendliness and firmness. Going too far in either direction,crossing either of those boundaries creates problems for your child.
Your child may be very winsome and adorable. However, they do not generally look out for their own best interest. No, they learn how to charm and manipulate rather early in order to get what they want when they want it. Don’t take seriously their promise to” be your best friend” if you will let them have what they want. They’re not capable of being a real friend to you. Neither are they very capable of judging what is healthy for them.
If you are somehow wanting your child to be your best friend you may want to ask this question: “What is this about?” There could be many answers to this. You may be divorced or in a lonely marriage. You may not like to deal with confrontation with your child. You may feel it’s your role to make your child happy. Remember, trying to make your child happy with you may ultimately lead to their ruin.
Keep the lines clear as to who is the parent and who is the child. Your job is to be an adult and to assist your child to grow to be as healthy and functional as possible. Sometimes this will mean your child won’t like your decisions and will not claim you as their friend or parent. You must be emotionally mature enough to deal with their displeasure without giving in to their threats and demands. If you want to be your child’s “real” best friend, concentrate on being his parent.
Do you ever say “I’m sorry” to your child?
Let’s face it, we aren’t going to be perfect parents. That means we make mistakes; do and say things we shouldn’t say and do to our kids. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be the best parent we can be because our child needs and deserves our best effort.
One important fact to keep in mind is that parenting is “on-the-job-training.” If you learn from your mistakes you should get better at it with more experience. Interesting, isn’t it? Your child is learning how to grow up while you are learning how to be a good parent.
But what do we do when we “lose it” with our child? How do we begin to correct things with our child, when we overreact or fail to act when we should do so? There is a one-word answer for this question: APOLOGIZE. That’s right, admit you didn’t handle the situation well and tell your child you are sorry for the way you acted toward him.
But you protest, “What if my child was doing something wrong?” I agree that your child’s wrong behavior needs to be corrected. But, maybe yours does also. Being the parent doesn’t mean you are immune from mistakes that need correction. So, when you mishandle a situation with your child, correct yourself and apologize for your bad behavior. Take your own medicine and attempt to not repeat the behavior for which you had to apologize.
Does apologizing diminish your authority with your child? Not at all. Apologizing establishes a sense of fairness in which your child comes to understand you want the best for him. Learning to say “I’m sorry” also means you will hold your self accountable for your actions. This helps develop a sense of trust that you will act in his best interest.
Perhaps, most importantly, your ability to “own your stuff” by apologizing will allow your child not to have to internalize your problems. This means he can develop emotional patterns that are healthy and not be controlled by behaviors that are reactions to things you need to resolve.
One of the greatest challenges of human relationships is to keep our personal stuff from creating unnecessary issues. In other words, we need to learn to own our stuff. For example, if you are person who always needs to be in charge, you can make others uncomfortable with your need to control or have things your way.
Refusing to recognize and deal with our “stuff” may cause others to have little to do with us. However, our children cannot easily avoid us and may choose unhealthy behaviors to deal with our stuff.
Children often adapt unhealthy reactions to a parent’s angry tirades, abuse, anxiety or any number of other issues. One example of this is the child who becomes a “pleaser.” This child doesn’t dare do or say anything that might create discomfort for someone even if he/she has been highly offended by their actions.
How does a child come to be this way? Most likely they learned early to stuff her feelings out of fear of setting off a parent’s explosive temper. Their “pleaser” ways may protect them from the parent’s anger but can have a big downside. They may come to believe they can’t have strong negative feelings. So, feelings are stuffed or the person can become passive aggressive. Certainly, they can’t take the risk of expressing their feelings directly and openly. Continuing on this path of stuffing their anger may lead to avoiding all kinds of conflicts and develop very shallow relationships in life.
What do you think could happen if an angry parent becomes able to own their stuff? It would mean they could learn to apologize and the child wouldn’t have had to internalize the parent’s stuff. It would mean the child could grow up with a more balanced emotional life.
Is there some emotional baggage you need to own? What, if any, unresolved anger or insecurity do you need to address so your kid won’t have to deal with it? If you don’t own it, it is quite likely your child, and perhaps others, will have to deal with it.
Successful parenting starts with you, the parent. Your character, who you are deep inside determines what you value most and how you will live. Character also determines the kind of parent you will be.
So, who are you? What values are at the core of your being? Are you kind and gentle? Selfish, arrogant or prideful? Are you a know-it-all or are you open to learning new ways of thinking and doing things? Most importantly, does your character resemble God’s view of who he is capable of making you?
God knows each of us just as we are. He knows our secrets, strengths and weaknesses. Thankfully, He also knows our potential and wants us to continually grow toward being that person. Like a loving parent, He hopes for and dreams of the fulfillment of our greatest potential.
What is God’s view of the potential you? He sees you as becoming more and more changed into the character of Jesus, his son. Paul captures this great vision of us in Romans 8:29 ” For those God foreknew he predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son ….”(NIV).
In the larger passage from which this statement comes, God promises to work in every circumstance in our life to promote this growth of Christ-like character in us. He is able to use all the difficulties, pain and disappointments to shape our character. Our character, formed around faith in Christ, is his greatest concern for us.
Where do you start with this change of character which will gradually transform you and the way you parent? You begin with the surrender of your life to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. If you haven’t already made this decision, I encourage you to begin this wonderful journey of forgiveness and grace right now.