Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Parenting by Design Daily Devotional: Empathy

I know...it's been some time since I've blogged...there's a lot that's gone on here lately, and I promise I'll catch up! I just had to post this, first..

The Instigator (the wonderful man that he is!) recently got me and iPhone! I've been having a lot of fun with apps and everything else that goes with it. This is the first phone I've had that even has a camera, let alone all the other bells and whistles that go with it. Up until now, I've only had cheesy flip phones. Granted, it's because I previously didn't care if I had the high-tech phones.

One of the apps I downloaded is for Bible reading, and it has the option of doing devotionals. Sadly, I've already fallen behind in them, and I only started them on the 30th! But as I was playing catch up, this one really stuck out at me. (The following is as written in the devotional, which is available for free through the "Parenting by Design Daily Devotional" on the "Bible" iPhone app.)

"Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of the body, the church."
~ Ephesians 4:15


"Our love grows soft if it is not strengthened by truth, and our truth grows hard if not softened by love." 
--John Stott

The essence of empathy is balancing truth and love. A rescuing parent leans heavily on love, but shies away from truth. A dictating parent leans heavily on truth, but mixes in little love. A counselor parent is able to express his love for the child no matter what they say or do, yet is strong enough to deliver appropriate consequences and to allow his child to struggle so that real learning takes place. It is a difficult balance, and out anxiety or anger often reveals where we fall on the continuum between rescuer and dictator. Is your love too soft, or your truth too hard?

Striking a balance between truth and love models out heavenly Father's relationship with us.

The part that really screamed at me was where the balance comes into play. I'm not typically one that's good at balance. I'm a very black and white person...shades of gray irritate me to no end. And it shows in pretty much every area of my life. If I'm not constantly cleaning and keeping house, I don't often get time to do what I want to do. If I forgo the cleaning and laundry in favor of knitting and computer time, the house tends to get into a state that compels The Instigator to take up the slack (...and immediately on the heels of that is overpowering guilt that consumes me, and I overcompensate and do nothing for myself to keep up on cleaning...then I get frustrated because I'm not relaxing...so I take time for me, and...do you see the viscous cycle, here?). I know, in my head (as well as from the experience of others) that all I have to do is manage my time better. Spend 30 minutes a day cleaning a room, a different room every day, to keep up with it all. But for whatever reason, that's not the way I function. I'm all or nothing. Black or white. Up or down. Joyous or furious. I can try to do the allotting of small bits of time to clean each day, but it never sticks for more than a week. So to say that this devotional hit me hard is a bit of an understatement.

In truth...I'm back and forth on the spectrum between the rescuing and dictating parent. And it's more sudden than one might expect. (I let things irritated me far more than I should...) If it's a balance that's hard enough for other people that can balance well, how much more difficult is it going to be for me?! I can absolutely see in my mind's eye examples of both extremes in my recent past. I guess all I can do is try...

I have also noticed that I'm better at  balancing things and being (at least closer to achieving the status of) a counselor parent when I'm actively immersing myself into the Bible and going to church (which is, I'm ashamed to admit, something that I've neglected since I lived in Oklahoma). So I'm taking it a little at a time...getting back into reading the Bible, doing daily devotionals, surrounding myself with positive people. I'm hoping it doesn't take me long to get closer to the middle of that parenting spectrum!

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I'm so glad to read this! Being a parent is the hardest thing we are called to do, with the fewest cogent instructions available. I just respect so much anyone who takes the calling seriously and seeks to raise Godly children in a way that honors and obeys God. You have my prayers and best wishes in your journey.