“Do Not Repay Evil For Evil.”

“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).

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Fear Of Failure, Cerebral Palsy, And A Tattoo!

I just got my first tattoo last week.  I was so nervous because I can’t control my muscles at all due to my severe cerebral palsy and I hate pain. But I am now the proud owner of a tattoo in honor of my grandpa who went Home in May.

I know some people believe it’s against the Bible to get a tattoo but when you study the cultural and historical context of the Bible, pagans were doing it for other gods. Plus, it wasn’t sterile or at all like it is now if you go to a reputable tattoo parlor.  Here is a great article about the cultural and historical context of the Bible when it comes to tattoos.

I felt God with me the whole time and He put the verse, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” in my head that morning and while she did it. Plus, I feel closer to my mom having a matching tattoo with her! The whole thing has been wonderful and all good things come from God!  And my tattoo comforts me every time I miss my grandpa.

I have wanted a tattoo for years but didn’t think I could stay still for it, especially since pain and anxiety make me move more.  So the first thing I did once I decided I was definitely doing this was to Google “people with cerebral palsy getting tattoos.”  I was very encouraged to find many people with cerebral palsy have tattoos.  Even so, I was still anxious about whether or not it would work for me.

After researching this thoroughly, my husband and I went in August to meet with a tattoo artist at our local tattoo parlor which came highly recommended.  I was very nervous when we went because I figured that they would see my involuntary movements and reject me.  I am terrified of rejection because I have been rejected so many times throughout my life.  Rather, I was met with total acceptance!

The guy we met talked to me like everyone else and listened when I talked. That means A LOT to me since some people look at my severe disability and assume that I am mentally disabled.  And my speech is very slurred making it difficult to understand me if you don’t know me well.

I immediately told the tattoo artist that I can’t control my muscles so I was worried if it would even work. He asked where I wanted the tattoo and I had him feel my thigh so he knew how the muscles would contract. Of course we explained that we’d make my feet straps tighter and that my mom would be here to help hold me.  I also took medicine to help control some of my spasms.

I was so excited for the next three weeks. I was also very nervous because even though the artist and the shop owner didn’t think there would be any problem with doing a tattoo on me, I was terrified that I would fail.

Ever since I was very young, I have been terrified of failure. As you can read in this post and this post, many people would look at me and not believe I could do things.  I learned from a very early age that I had to always prove myself to people.  Plus, I was verbally abused by various people growing up and I saw how my dad reacted angrily when my older siblings didn’t live up to his expectations. I still feel like this today. So I felt like I had to prove that I could handle the tattoo.

I can’t stress enough the importance of building our children up.  They need to learn how to believe in themselves.  This does not mean we make them proud as humility is a virtue.  But humility does not mean feeling like you never measure up or always have to be afraid of failing.  Humility means that you put others before you and you don’t think you’re better than everyone else.  But feeling poorly about yourself is not humility.

Nobody should have to struggle with anxiety like I do due to how I was treated as a child and throughout my life by certain people. Thankfully, my husband and mom had complete faith in me as did many of my friends.

Well, the night before my tattoo appointment my artist who was supposed to do my tattoo contacted us because something came up and he couldn’t do it the next day.  Yes, I had a little panic attack but he made sure someone else could do it. The lady we got was wonderful.  She has done tattoos on people with cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. That helped put me at ease.

The day of my tattoo, I was so nervous. Again, I was afraid that I would fail. That the pain would be too much for me and I would move too much.  But Candace immediately put me at ease.  She was quickly able to figure out my spasms and work around them. Every time she initially put the needle down, my startle reflex would make me jump.  But once that happened, she knew to keep going and I was fine.  There were a few “ouch” moments where I made my husband  talk more and I had to distract myself more but it wasn’t bad. I now have a BEAUTIFUL purple Mickey Mouse outline and a BEAUTIFUL red Corvette outline in honor of my dear grandpa! She was gentle and it was over before I knew it! I hugged her as I was so happy with her work.

The significance of my tattoo: Mickey Mouse is because when I was 15, Grandma and Grandpa took me to Disney World over my Christmas break. We saw the Christmas parade, rode on rides, and they arranged a private meeting with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and Goofy and other characters. I believe in signs from people in Heaven and ever since Grandpa went Home, I’ve seen Mickey everywhere despite Hello Kitty being more popular than Mickey nowadays. The Corvette is because my grandpa LOVED Corvettes.  He was never without one since I was born. He was a mechanic and worked for BF Goodrich and loved working on cars. So he would buy Corvettes, fix them up, enjoy them, then sell them. My mom is a Corvette owner after 50 years, so getting the red corvette honors him for both of us AND is fun to have matching tattoos with my mom!

I have a major sense of accomplishment and I’m grateful to God for helping me through it!  I loved watching my mom get her matching Corvette in honor of Grandpa who was her dad.  And whenever I miss my grandpa, I just look at my tattoo!

I don’t know if I will ever be free from my fear of failure.  But I do know that God wants me to use my pain to help others.  Children deserve nothing but respect as do people with disabilities. Just because I am severely disabled does not mean I can’t live a “normal as possible” life.  We just need more assistance. If you are reading this and want a tattoo that is meaningful to you and you’re disabled, I’m living proof that you can do it!

We can do all things through Him who gives us strength!

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My tattoo in honor of my dear grandpa (April 1, 1928-May 2, 2016).
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my mom’s and my matching tattoos.

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Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Words Will Never Hurt Me, Huh?

We’ve all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  We probably have said it as children, but is it true?  For me, it is not true at all.

In fact, this is not true for many people.  Words have power.  The Bible even acknowledges that words have power and we need to choose our words carefully.  Let’s look at some of these verses:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21, ESV).

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV).

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:18, ESV).

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, ESV).

Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent” (Proverbs 11:12, ESV).

As we can see, words have the power to build people up or tear them down.  And sometimes words hurt more than being hit, though that is never an excuse to spank/hit a child.  

I was verbally abused by my dad and my high school personal assistant. Even though I was able to rise above it with the help of the Lord and my husband, I still struggle with not feeling good enough or not believing in myself.  I beat myself up a lot in my head.  I take things very personally.  I hate making mistakes because I best myself so much.

In this technological-advanced age, there is a horrible trend of shaming children online.  So not only are parents saying that their children are “bad,” “brats,” “disrespectful,” and “crybabies” to their faces, they’re posting it for the whole world to see.  I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and embarrassment these children feel or will feel when they see the world looking at their mistakes and applauding their parents for “putting them in their place.”

It’s hard enough being shamed and put down privately. The messages that we put into children’s heads become their inner voices.  They start to believe that they are “bad,” “sinful,” and “ungrateful.”  Putting children down only tears them down.  And it begins in infancy.  Infants hear our tone and read our body language to understand us. And most infants begin to understand words before they ever start talking.

Therefore, telling an infant to “shut up,” calling him/her a “brat,” and saying things like “you’re gross” will make them internalize these messages.  And of course, treating infants like we don’t want to be with them also sends the message that they are “burdens.”

Sometimes shaming is used to threaten the child before physical punishment is administered.  Some parents who may not use physical punishment with their children, but believe that children deserve some type of punishment, use shaming to control their children’s behavior.  Many Christians tend to tell children that they have “sinned” against God.  This does nothing but lead to worldly sorrow.

Shaming and punishment leads to worldly sorrow as the child focuses on stopping his/her own pain. The child may appear to have self control after receiving regular punishment and shaming, but it’s actually self-preservation to avoid pain. Discipline, however, teaches godly sorrow and true self-control because discipline teaches empathy for others. There may be pain as a byproduct of discipline due to the discovery of hurting another and God, but pain is NEVER inflicted on the child by an adult. This allows for true self-control as the child learns from natural consequences and gains empathy. Godly sorrow makes the child truly want to repent and make things right. And it’s important to remember that self-control develops very, very slowly in children.

Now, I am not saying that we shouldn’t correct our children.  We should do so in a way that doesn’t shame them. Pointing out how their behavior affected another person and empathizing with him/her will allow the child to calm down and eventually see that he/she hurt his/her friend which will lead the child to true sorrow.

For example, if 4-year-old Billy hits Sarah, we make sure Sarah is ok and then talk to Billy about his behavior and why he hit.

Adult: “Billy, you hit Sarah.  I know you were angry but it’s never okay to hit people.”

Billy:  “But she wouldn’t let me have a turn with the ball.”

Adult:  “Yes, I can see why you got angry. But you cannot hit.”

Billy:  “But I really wanted to play with the ball.  She wouldn’t let me.”

Adult:  “It’s hard to control our impulses when we’re angry.  Did you try to use your words?”

Billy:  “I asked her over and over for a turn and she said ‘no’ all the time.”

Adult:  “Ok, but when she kept telling you no, you hit her.  What happened when you hit her?

Billy:  “She started crying.”

Adult: “Yes, she cried because hitting hurts.  And now nobody is playing with the ball because you’re both upset.  What can we do to fix this?”

Billy: “I shouldn’t have hit her. I will go say sorry.”

Billy goes to Sarah and apologizes all on his own. They talk and begin playing together.

There was no need for shaming or punishment. Billy just needed help getting his brain to calm down enough to realize that he hurt his friend. The adult remained calm and empathetic to Billy.  The natural consequence for Billy’s behavior was that Sarah was hurt and cried when he hit her.   Of course, some children will take longer to calm down and realize they hurt someone. This is all based on the development of the child and how that child is treated.

The more we tear down children, the harder it is for them to learn empathy. If you’re always in self-preservation mode, you can’t see past your own pain.  And sometimes people that have been so torn down may actually take the opposite approach by becoming bullies. Children and adults who feel badly about themselves can sometimes gain “power” by hurting others.  Not all people beat themselves up.  Rather, they take their pain out on others.

We can discipline children without shaming them and putting them down. Let’s build them up so that they can build others up.  Sticks and stones may break my bones but words DO HURT ME.

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