Beyond Manners: Trade Nice Parenting for a Bold Gospel
- Thursday, November 01, 2007
Editor's Note: This article is one in a series of adaptations taken from the new release No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps: Raising Secure, Assertive Kids in a Tough World. Throughout the next few months, these articles will explore reasons why children are growing more and more timid - making them more susceptible to bullying - and provide practical advice on how to raise secure and assertive children.
In the previous article I explained how today’s anxious parenting style is harming our children by creating fearful, narcissistic, and anxious children. Sadly, Christians with the best of intentions are leading the way in this wrong direction.
Let me explain. Our children aren’t becoming wimpy because we’re teaching them to be humble and training them to embrace patience. They’re going out into the world as wimps because many of us parents are ignoring the broader counsel of God, pushing away character traits that make us uncomfortable, and pretending that being disengaged from the world is actually about holiness and purity -- when more often it’s about fear, lack of preparation, and a lack of love.
Many of us have been following a set of principles that are incomplete at best. This dangerous worldview, this outlook, is no one person’s creation. It’s no one denomination’s fault. It’s what ministers are told is the central thrust of our faith, the main principles to emphasize on any given Sunday. It’s what many of us have believed makes us believers. I call it The Official Script.
The problem with the Official Script is that it overemphasizes certain character traits at the expense of other important character traits. Here’s an example. Jesus told his disciples that he was sending them into a dangerous world, as if they were sheep living among wolves. His advice? “Be wise as serpents, innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). He told those who dared to follow Him to be both streetwise and sin-free. Don’t hurt people, but don’t be a sucker either. But right now, the majority of sermons that parents and children hear are about becoming innocent as doves. The wisdom of serpents is largely discarded.
Because of this, we are ignoring God’s broader council, lopping off entire facets of truth about how life is meant to be lived — about what our heart and mind are to become, and about the choices our will is to make. I can’t overstress this: Usually our human intentions are for the absolute best. Nevertheless, by whatever name we call this way of life — Fortress Faith, Barricade Belief, Castle Christianity, Ivory-Tower Idealism — what we’re actually doing is replacing love with fear, goodwill with criticism, joy with anxiety, hope with worry, and strength with silence.
We’re often either marginalizing or largely eradicating such rugged virtues as wisdom, shrewdness, boldness, and courage (Interestingly, the word Jesus used for wise in Matt. 10:16 can also be translated as cunning or shrewd. And courage’s opposite – cowardice - is listed in the Bible as a sin, equal with faithlessness, murder, fornication, sorcery, and lying [Rev. 21:8]). These aspects of integrity require an active and assertive approach toward life — but many Christians think being assertive is wrong. As a result, we’re bringing up our kids to be so sweet and compliant that I wouldn’t be surprised if the federal government and armed forces commissioned studies to determine whether or not children who grew up in churches are capable of defending our country. They may be forced to create another kind of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy.
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