When the Going Gets Tough, Part 1

This three-part post addresses parents of difficult children, but can be generalized to apply to anyone hoping to influence a person who is morally ambivalent.

When a child’s alarming behavior threatens to establish itself as permanent traits through repetition, someone who cares is desperately needed to intervene on behalf of the child’s character and future. Tragically, some parents are so minimally invested in their kids or their standards are so low for them, that they are nonchalant about their own child’s highly concerning character and behaviors.

Those parents who do intervene are often criticized by those who have no comprehension of the child’s willfulness. Some kids are determined to sabotage their own lives and the peace of their family. Their parents’ words might be anything but sweet, but appropriate and necessary in a situation worthy of disapproval.

To an outsider who gets only a snapshot of a committed parent and child in a struggle like this, it can be misinterpreted as the parent being hyper-critical or harsh. A longer look would reveal this is a worn but committed parent, dealing with a child determined to defy all that will benefit his life.

It depletes a parent emotionally and physically to uphold high hopes and expectations for their child. The temptation to take the path of least resistance is always present, offering gain of instant relief from the conflict. But also present is the knowledge that it will come at the price of lost long-term peace and diminished character development.

Our children’s potentials are before us, waiting to see if we will believe in them or give up on them. No matter how tired or frustrated parents become, a child’s life is significantly influenced by our expectations. Their full potential is theirs to apprehend, not ours to limit by mirroring to them a belief that mediocrity is the pinnacle of their potential.


When Fight Is Right

speaking head for blog

The idiom, “it takes two to tango”, is often used to imply that if a relationship is rocky, both parties are to blame. That sweeping assumption is false in many circumstances. Apply logic to it and it falls apart.

In some relationships, one party chooses to dominate, bully, deceive, betray or manipulate the other. Must the responsibility for the resultant rocky relationship also rest on the innocent party? If the victim raises objections, is his or her “fight” deserving of outsiders concluding, “it takes two … “?

Not when this is happening …

A person on the receiving end of mistreatment finds himself alone, judged, confused and wounded. Beyond the clear wrongs done to him, he is up against mind games. He is being indulged by the person he is deeply committed to. That person is just nice enough, giving enough, seemingly-essential enough, to keep him from leaving. Once his ongoing presence is secured, they knowingly, willingly, unconscionably return to mistreating him. They repeatedly sabotage the relationship, while he amps up his desperate efforts to salvage it.

Simply put, one person brings destruction to the relationship and the other puts all his efforts into cleanup and rebuilding. Devotion to the relationship in those conditions is difficult to comprehend for those who would walk at the first swing of the destructive hammer.

A highly tolerant and committed person understands it. He doesn’t give up quickly. He truly cares. He wants the relationship to work, and knows if some things change, it can work. If only a few right choices are made; if only a changed mindset occurs; if only the wrongs stop, all could be well together.

He hears of others’ success stories: Sometimes destructive ways are replaced by righteousness. Sometimes staying in an ignoble situation someone else caused, is made right by staying — the wrongdoer is influenced to choose righteously. Or the person reaping havoc is his child — he won’t walk away from his child.

And so he stays, committed, fighting to help the wrongdoer, and determined to salvage the relationship the other is hellbent on destroying.

Do his efforts always look sweet? Hardly. If a loved one is throwing himself in the fire, so to speak, he will bring out every tool he has to object to their choices. Because he cares. He is invested. He wants them to live righteously and have an outstanding character. The more committed he is, the more tools he’ll use, even the fiery ones if forced to, to discourage a person determined to harm himself or others.

But this is critical: The communication tools you use must always be in truth, acceptable to God, and justifiable for the situation. If there is no certainty of your safety, or of God’s approval of your behavior, abstain from confrontation. Get close to God; know his will; learn his heart; let him have yours. There will be no righteous “win” for the relationship if that doesn’t happen. Don’t go near wrath unless you’re so yielded to God that his Holy Spirit is doing it through you.

Some people can commit such extreme wrongs, that those in their lives who are still committed to them are forced to respond with equal strength. And when he does, even though his actions may be blameless before God, and of God, others may catch a glimpse and wrongfully presume, “It takes two … Both are arguing, so both are wrong.”

He knows better. Optimally, he’s secure enough to disregard the ignorance of those who judge without knowing.

For those on the outside who briefly witness his battle, consider this: How can he deal with cruelty, rebellion, deception, betrayal, or abuse with sugary “Jello and pudding” encouraging words? Ponder this extreme example: What a tragedy that Hitler was approved of by those in his life, when he might have been stopped early on had he been met with vehement disapproval. Should support and encouragement have fueled that fire?

Sweet support is for fueling what is good. Fiery vehemence is for stopping what is evil.

A committed, caring person doesn’t give up on relationships quickly. That’s a good thing. Even if, in the end, the relationship dissolves and each goes their separate ways, he will always know he did everything he could to salvage it.