Tuesday, September 4, 2018

"Reaching Neutral" Part 2: When You Are the Person Who Acts Badly

Last week I shared with you a method of teaching kids how to deescalate a disagreement.  I called it"Reaching Neutral".  We talked about considering the feelings of others and figuring out what you need to own in an argument.  Well, now you can use me as your example to your children.   Seriously!  I give you full permission to begin the object lesson with the words, "Miss Hope from Under the Median really messed up."

What happened?


Without going into all the details, I will give you the gist of what happened.  I received an e-mail with details on a special program in which to enroll my children.  I read it over and fixated on one poorly written sentence.  I e-mailed the originator, asking what she meant by the sentence.  My response involved what I perceived as a slight to those who could not afford her program.  Now this is where it gets tricky.  Rather than waiting for her to respond, I proceeded to tell her my opinion of why what she was doing was not fair to those who could not afford it.  She thought I was questioning her integrity.  I can see why she felt that way.  That was not my intention.  But, the damage had been done. 

I screwed up!

That's right!  I screwed up!  We all do it, don't we?  Sometimes we react based on own fears and anger.  As soon as I realized what had happened, I did what any sane person would do.  I took my foot firmly out of my mouth and apologized.  She was gracious.  I tried to explain what I had meant.  I tried to explain my perspective.  I think we are okay now. 

However, the situation brings me to my point of the day.

When we react to people out of a spirit of fear and anger:

1.  We don't give ourselves enough credit. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Living and raising kids under the median is not for the feint of heart.  It is tough.  You must make decisions every single day about what you can and cannot afford to do.  Sometimes it seems that everyone else can give their children the advantage of private lessons, sports teams,  and extra classes.  If you don't watch it you'll work yourself into a first class case of the "feel sorry for me blues".  You will begin to believe the lie that your child's future success is based solely on your income - of lack thereof.  Nope!  

What is "success".  I would suggest to you success is not about money!  It is far more about character.  It is about hard work.  It is about faith.  It is about recognizing your own self-worth and celebrating every blessing which God bestows on you.  These things define success - not your bank account.  Money can't buy character!  Don't ever forget it.  If you begin to believe the lie, you will lash out at people for perceived inequities every time.

Life is not about being "fair", it's about being faithful:  faithful to tell your children that God has a plan for their lives, that He has given them giftings, that He has given them a task to do, and that HE will equip them to do it - with or without money.  I have told my children over and over again that money is merely a means to an end.  That's it!  When money becomes the end, then there is a problem.  When we let our own self-doubts about money rule our responses, we lash out in fear and anger.  We do damage.    

I know.  I did.  

2.  We don't give others enough credit. 

 In general, people are not out to "get us".  They are not out to upset us.  They are not out to hurt us.  I drive my grown children nuts by constantly giving people the benefit of the doubt - even those who do not deserve it.  Seriously!  Ask my grown sons sometime about "Joe the drug dealer", who lived across the street from us.  He actually told me to my face that he was a drug dealer when I asked what he did for a living!  I thought he was a poorly understood young chap, who happened to work late at night, but did keep his lawn perfectly manicured.  You can see why my older boys talk about who will "keep an eye on Mom" to make sure she isn't trusting disreputable people.  

I choose to believe that Joe was an anomaly and that most of the time, really, it is better to give people the opportunity to respond and not assume that they mean ill will toward us.   I will say that text messages and e-mails are really the bane of polite society.  It is way too easy to misunderstand intentions.  You cannot detect inflection, genuine questions, or careful concerns from a disembodied missive.  Do yourself a favor, think really carefully about your own wording before you respond to an e-mail.  Be aware that misunderstandings can take place.  Put yourself in the other person's shoes.  It is better to call the person and talk to them or meet them in person.

 I know.  I should have. 


3.  We don't give God enough credit. 


Remember the story about how God provided piano lessons for my son?  Here's a link to that post.  I had absolutely nothing to do with my son, John, receiving piano lessons!  It was God!  As a parent, we need to be wiling to step back and allow God to provide for our children's needs and not us.  

When it became clear that our oldest son was really, really smart and really, really wanted a college education, I felt utterly helpless.  There was absolutely no way that we could be of any real help.   I could only pray. I should have realized that our sufficiency is never enough, but that God will always be sufficient.   James worked his tail off from the time he was 13 years old, saving every penny toward college.  He would say, 'This is my college money!"  I remember thinking, "Good luck, kid.  That isn't going to go far."  But, he had the faith of a giant.  He would talk about where he was going to go to college.  He would describe what it would be like when  he graduated.  He knew that God would provide!  He was right!   He has received over $40,000 in scholarships.  He has used his savings to pay for his room and board.  By the way, he also bought a car for cash, paid for his own insurance, his cell phone bill, and all other regular expenses.  Larry and I will have given him a grand total of just $4000 toward that education. I should walk with less fear.  I should react with less anger.  I should have the faith of my own child.

I know.  I will.  

Peace to you this week. 


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