Relationships Matter. God Is A Relational God.

As I have been corresponding with people who are on the fence about gentle discipline, it hit me that God is a relational God.  Everything He does is to get us to become closer to Him.  That’s why it makes me sad that so many Christians believe that He does bad things “for our good.”  That doesn’t make us feel closer to Him unless we have some sadomachistic tendencies going on in us.

When it comes to disciplining our children, I find myself covering the same issues with punitive parents who just don’t understand what discipline really is.  So I am going to cover it again here.

Discipline looks at the whole child instead of focusing on behavior. When you understand the child and where he/she is in his/her development, you can set appropriate limits and figure out the whys behind behavior. Children are so much more than a set of behaviors or “sins.”  They are complicated, competent human beings that need our guidance.  They are new to this world and have immature brains and bodies.  This should not be used against them, but it often is.

Going from using external control such as spankings, time-outs, and taking away privileges in an arbitrary way to using internal motivation by meeting needs, setting limits, allowing natural consequences of choices to happen, validating feelings, allowing appropriate choices, giving alternative appropriate behavior and/or ways of expressing feelings, using time-in to settle down with the children and connect instead of isolating them is tough. It takes a lot of work and patience.

We use the Fruit of the Spirit A LOT when we choose to discipline rather than punish. But this is true discipline.  To grow heathy fruit, we must cultivate it, water it, and give it plenty of sunshine.  We must also do our best to protect it from the enemy, usually bugs and other animals.  We don’t beat the sprouts and fruit as that would ruin it.  So why do it to our children by beating them?

God is a relational God, so using discipline is focusing on keeping our relationships intact with our children. You may think that your relationship with your children is fine despite using punishment, but it isn’t what it could be as all children want to please their parents. They may behave out of fear instead of out of respect.  We want our children to behave because it is the right thing to do!  We want our children to have healthy relationships with others and with God.  Only true respect can teach children respect.  We must model respect to our children by respecting them and other people!  They are learning from our actions more than our words

Also, I am sure I have covered this in other posts, but I know people learn through repetition too so I will cover this again.   Fear and respect mean two totally different things.

The definition of fear is “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”

The definition of respect is “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.”

Notice fear contains the word “evil” in its definition but respect doesn’t. And throughout the Bible God tells us to NOT be afraid. Therefore, to be reverent means to respect, not afraid.

Since God is a relational God, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to treat our children in a manner that produces a healthy relationship with us? We work hard to have good marriages by treating our spouses with love and respect.  Why should it be any different with our children?  God is over us and yet He calls us His friends (John 15:15, James 2:23, Romans 5:10).  May we treat our children how God treats us.

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Companionship Is Vital To Our Survival

I watched a tv show back in October 2015 that described the five primal fears of all humans.  According to this article, the five primal fears are:

  1. Extinction. This is the fear of death.
  2. Mutilation.  This is the fear of losing body parts or being physically hurt.
  3. Loss of Autonomy.  This is the fear of being physically disabled or not having control over situations.
  4. Separation.  This is the fear of being left behind or isolated or losing loved ones.
  5. Ego-death.  This is the fear of being humiliated or shamed.

In this post I want to focus on separation. Anyone following my blog or that has read my book knows that I don’t believe that fear is from God based on 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB) which states:

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

Therefore, I think of these primal fears as more survival instincts.  They keep us from putting ourselves in danger. They are God’s way of keeping us safe.

Separation is one of my major fears, or, I guess, survival instincts.  It is extra strong in me. I have lost a lot of people throughout my life. Whether it was due to rejection or death or people moving away, the fact is loss scares me. 

I have been on overdrive lately when it comes to losing people due to losing my mother-in-law, to whom I was quite close, in August 2015. So if a friend starts to back off due to life, I feel the road to rejection and loss coming all over again. I freak.

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This is from the book, “Healing After Loss” by Martha Whitmore Hickman. This further proves our God given need for companionship especially during rough times.

I hate blaming my severe cerebral palsy on anything, but I must wonder if I would experience less loss if I wasn’t disabled.  I would more easily make friends and could physically contribute more to friendships such as spontaneously meeting friends somewhere without having to plan it all out.

I was also physically, emotionally, and verbally abused by my dad throughout my entire childhood.  Then he disowned me in my adulthood.  That gets into separation instinct as well as ego death.  We all need to feel valued and loved from day one.

Of course there is another major reason why some people’s separation instinct is on overdrive. Being left to cry-it-out as infants teaches children to expect separation and loss. The brain gets wired in such a way that instead of having a healthy survival instinct, it goes into overdrive. Then if the child continues to experience loss, that further increases their survival instinct and fear of separation and loss.

I must point out that separation anxiety in infants and toddlers is developmentally appropriate.  Parents and caregivers can help children with separation anxiety by always telling the child when they will be back as well as always saying goodbye to the child instead of sneaking out.  This helps children not be on high alert to make sure people won’t just suddenly disappear.

You know, God created us to need human and animal companionship. Therefore, a healthy separation survival instinct would be to recognize our need for relationships without always worrying about losing the people we love.  When God saw that Adam needed additional companionship, He created the animals for him.  Then when they weren’t enough, God created Eve.

Yes, God fills up a certain major need in us, but He knows we need other relationships on this Earth.  I know that may be a weird idea for many Christians as the church teaches us that God is all we need.  And indeed, there is nothing that can ever compare to God’s perfect, unconditional love for us.  But if all we need is God, then why did He create us with a separation survival instinct?

This is why infants need us to respond to them consistently and respectfully when they cry or they will have brain damage that may not be apparent to the naked eye but will surface in some manner at some point in their lives.  It will negatively affect every relationship they ever have.

I believe we need to cherish every relationship we are in and do our part in nurturing it.

Yes, some relationships must take priority over others.  But God doesn’t want us walking away from relationships in which He put us unless they have become toxic.  And our relationship with Him comes first as that is how we can make sure we are treating each other how He wants.

Here are some verses about the importance of companionship:

”Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'” (Genesis 2:18, ESV).

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, ESV).

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22, ESV).

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14, ESV).

May we raise our children in a manner that will allow them to have a healthy separation survival instinct.  May we also teach them to value all relationships and friendships–especially the one they have with Jesus. After all, Jesus is our friend.

Yes, companionship is vital to our well being and survival!

 

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