“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17, NASB).
“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9, ESV).
I have been going through a great deal of things recently. I was badly hurt by some people. Believe me, I have been tempted to repay evil for evil, but that is not what God wants us to do. I am far from perfect, but I am really doing my best to not repay evil.
I have learned a few things as I continue to work through the hurt, anger, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and anxiety from the recent incidents and they also apply to gentle parenting.
1. Scolding harshly just shuts children and adults down. It’s true. Scolding anyone of any age just makes them feel angry, defensive, small, and helpless. This is especially true when a child has not even done anything wrong. And often harsh scolding is abusive and/or shaming, which is very harmful and hurtful.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, NASB).
2. People of all ages act badly when they feel badly. This is a common idea throughout gentle parenting. Realizing why a child is acting out is so important because he/she is usually feeling badly either physically or emotionally or both. When we stop to see behind the behavior, we see a whole new picture that changes, hopefully, the way we respond to the child. The same is true with adults. Being lashed out at by an adult is harder for me to deal with than if it was a child. Yet, when I am really hurting, I tend to lash out too. But I have learned that trying to be quiet and not lash out is always the best way to go. Easier said than done, though.
3. Mutual respect is key for healthy relationships. From the moment a child is conceived, he/she should be respected. Teaching respect means being respectful by not doing anything to the child that you know will intentionally hurt them such as cry-it-out, saying harsh words to them, manipulating them either physically or emotionally or both, and spanking/hitting them. I often feel like people don’t truly respect me and that’s so hard when I’m trying to be respectful. Again, I am far from perfect, but without mutual respect, one person will be walked all over by the other person. The only way I know to encourage mutual respect is to teach it to children. And just because someone is disabled or different doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same respect as everyone else!
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;” (Romans 12:10, NASB).
“and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21, NASB).
4. PTSD, anxiety, and sensitivity are real and not weaknesses. Due to being abused throughout my childhood by my dad and a school personal aide, I have all of these things. When people I am close to say “mean” things to me–whether it’s intentional or not-– it triggers my anxiety and PTSD. I’m left debilitated for a while. For children, saying mean, hurtful things will only tear them down and may lead to anxiety and PTSD. Some children, as I was , and still am, are quite sensitive. Unfortunately, being sensitive is often looked down upon and seen as a weakness. Then people try to use this to manipulate and control these children and adults. This is not ok! If everyone was sensitive and empathetic, the world would be a much better place!
5. Despite the common Christian doctrine that we’re born selfish, selfishness is a learned behavior. Children raised with respect, compassion, empathy, and love usually learn to be the same. These children are more competent in social interactions and have a lower rate of anti-social behaviors. People raised with selfishness can learn how not to be, but many remain selfish until the day they die. If we want less selfishness in the world, we need to learn how to be selfless! And we must teach our children how to be selfless by modeling it to them daily.
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;” (Philippians 2:3, NASB).
6. We must forgive while not allowing people to walk all over us. Boundaries and limits are a must for children and adults in our life. Children usually cooperate with boundaries and limits when they understand the reason behind them. Adults, however, can be more complicated because they don’t always respect the limits and boundaries. Sometimes all we can do is to put more space between us and them to protect ourselves. I’m still figuring out how to do this.
Also when we forgive, we should never throw stuff back in their faces when we are upset with them. That isn’t fair. We don’t forget but we move on if we can with the relationship. Otherwise, it might be better to get out of a toxic relationship.
7. We can’t control others but we can control ourselves. The best thing is to focus on controlling our responses to others. We are the only one that we can control.
I’m still working on all of this. If everyone would do their best to work on these things, I truly believe that we’d have healthier relationships.
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, ESV).