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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

When ‘tough love’ ends in a hug

ESCALATION is never territory a parent wants to traverse when they sense they’re losing control. I had one of those situations recently.
My son was exasperated, and even as I write these words I hear God’s voice through Ephesians 6:4 — “Fathers, do not be provoking your children to anger, but be nourishing them in the training and admonition of the Lord.”[1]
I had provoked him to anger. He did not understand my logic. He is only four, after all. My error was imputing to him a sense of logic that is beyond his present understanding. Little wonder he began to charge at me. This is where I’ve found sons and daughters are different. A daughter might become distraught and withdrawn, which potentially affects them psychologically. Or, they might respond in a passively aggressive way. Without generalising or specifying too much, there are gender differences, but angering my children has clearly had different and yet always negative effects.
It’s humbling as a parent when you finally realise, in trying to do the right thing, you’re actually dead wrong. It’s a real trap. Later reflection has often revealed I was duped by my ignorant understanding.
The moment I realised he was out of control, and that so was I, something clicked within me; something that melted my pride.
It was the realisation of the power of a hug to diffuse the powder keg of emotion and bring space for reflection within the safety of affection.
Even as I embraced my son, I felt he was getting something he did not deserve — a hug instead of tough love. I thought it was grace. But by his response God taught me an important lesson. It wasn’t grace at all; it was simple justice. I was saying sorry for riling him to anger for mismanaging the corrective moment.
Finally I had become open enough to begin to understand. My son’s response was simply to receive that hug. And within a minute I could begin to reason with him. His response spoke powerfully for the justice he now felt had been restored. And he was then able to emotionally handle the consequences that were now his — the right time for tough love.
What I’m saying here will make implicit sense to the majority of mothers.
No wonder, at least in my case, it is to fathers that the apostle Paul writes, “do not be provoking your children to anger…”
Perhaps the chief lesson in all this, as father, is what am I learning about my own anger?

[1] Disciples’ Literal New Testament version.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Forgiveness when it seems impossible

YOU’VE tried myriad times and ways to forgive a person, so now you’re open to anything God might use. Finally, when we’ve tried seemingly everything we come to be ready to face what God has led us to.
Jesus uses the Good Samaritans in our life to reveal the Pharisee within us. What Jesus is getting to, as a central tenet of the Good Samaritan parable, is the hardest thing for our flesh to accept:
… that God is for the person who has hurt us deeply.
God is not just for us!
God is not a side-taker.
If Jesus were telling us the parable we might expect Him to identify our Samaritan — that person we have a bias against or cannot or will not forgive — and make them the hero of the story. Wow, imagine in our resentment that Jesus is putting the acid on us. That’s not the Jesus of our ego, is it? But He is the real Jesus. Such a good friend, He will trust us enough to challenge us with what we don’t want to hear.
Can we be thankful before God
when an ‘enemy’ does a good work in His name?
That’s hard, isn’t it? Anyone who thinks that’s easy has perhaps never been bitterly hurt. If we don’t believe an enemy is capable of such good works as the Samaritan did then we are the ones with the problem. When they do that good work, God will render our bitterness as shame. And we will either be polarised further into our futile corner, or we will be convicted to repent. The latter is always a miracle of God’s grace; a conviction of the Holy Spirit surrendered to.
When we’re given the grace to forgive someone who has been a thorn in our side, the road to reconciliation is immediately halfway paved. But because they don’t feel the same compassion, from grace to bitterness we can sometimes slide. We need to acknowledge that our hearts are ever vulnerable.
Bizarre as it is, the Good Samaritan looks far beyond their own prejudice. They look at the half dead person and see not an enemy, but the person’s humanity. They see the person as God sees them. The Good Samaritan is convicted by the Royal Law implicit within him. The Golden Rule stands as its own testimony of his actions.
Forgiveness is easier when we understand God’s justice. He is for both us and them.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Human Beings Being Human

We can well understand others when they fail, for we ourselves have failed, and we will continue to fail, as will they. They may fail us, but one day we may fail them, if we haven’t already. When we have just failed someone, we may thank God that we may be more compassionate with those who are about to fail us, especially if we experienced compassion; and if we didn’t, compassion is thereby our opportunity. Nobody learns anything when they’re cruelled for having failed. So, in terms of failure, we can understand them, just as we wish for them to understand us.
We can well understand people who hurt people, for we too have hurt people, and continue to do so. They may have hurt us today, but perhaps we will hurt someone tomorrow. We can understand them, just as we wish for them to understand us.
We can well understand those who live with anxiety, for we too have been anxious. Their anxiety may impact us negatively, but our anxiety has impacted others to their detriment. We can understand them, just as we wish for them to understand us.
We can well understand those who judge us, for we too have judged people. Their judgments may have affected our reputation, but we have damaged others’ reputations. We can understand them, just as we wish for them to understand us.
We can well understand what it feels like to be criticised, because we have dealt with criticism. What we hate to have to bear we know all too well. And yet it won’t be long before we are again berating a person, if not verbally, under our breath or in our heart. We can understand them, just as we wish for them to understand us.
We do the same things that we hate being done to us. We can well understand. Human beings being human. That’s a big cause of stress. It needn’t be. We are all the same. Forgiveness is about perspective. We forgive if we feel we warrant forgiveness.
Compassion is its own blessing because the compassionate understand the universal need of empathy. It begins with us. And we are never more blessed to partake without expectation of its return. God has His way of blessing us even if our compassion is not returned.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Do As I Do, Not Just As I Say

AFTER getting a little frustrated attempting to hang some twisted jeans on a clothes airer, my son said to me (as we do, him) “take a step back, Dad.” (He had our attention, because we knew what was happening.) After modelling what we require him to do when he gets frustrated — take a moment’s reflection — he comes up to me and, as I crouched down to his level, he says, “So what happened?” A discussion about what happened took place. Then he said, “Okay, I forgive you.” A few seconds later he told me he was proud of me.
It was a moment in my family’s time where we had to have the presence of mind to allow our young son to model what we model as a way of us impressing upon him the importance of example and of justice. He modelled respectful communication as we try to. He modelled care for me as he noticed me losing control. He modelled a heart for peace and reconciliation and the management of emotions. And it possibly is a powerful reinforcer of this method when we need to apply it next with him. (As it turned out, less than two hours later he was sent to bed early for not doing what he was told.)
Doesn’t parenting require much humility?
Humility and presence of awareness. I/we could have missed the opportunity had I overruled him. (And in our home those opportunities are often missed.) Had we missed it, he would have learned nothing. It’s not like I’m trying to promote him in his maturity or elevate us in our parenting wisdom. (We’re as ‘normal’ a family as yours is.) The win here is simply about capturing a moment and being aware enough of the potential positive coaching moment. In the moment, we caught ourselves observing what it was that our son actually knew, giving him the opportunity to show us; to be the teacher. Had he done it in a disrespectful way he would have been immediately chastised. We gave him the chance. On this occasion, it paid off.

We need to give people a chance to fail for them to experience what it’s like to succeed.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What You Realize When It’s YOU That’s Being Judged

WHEN it’s you that’s on the rack, and the screws of condemnation are being tightened surely though slowly, you know one thing: people should only judge when they know enough to understand, then they would empathize and no longer judge.
So rarely do any of us know anything like all the information, therefore we cannot understand, and to empathize is but a panacea.
So rarely are we in the position to assess adequately or judge properly, but we are human, and that inclines us toward having our opinion. We are bound to act off whatever information we do have, whether it’s sufficient or correct or not. So many injustices ensue. But we have our view. And the expression of that view is just one easy unconscious step to take.
What we realize when it’s us who’s being judged is how unfair it is. Another person has developed a view of us or our situation, and we’ve got no recourse to challenge their view.
Finally, as the product of being judged, we discover a blessing. It is good to be judged; to experience injustice. It’s better for our mind to consider it a blessing than a curse.
Why is it a blessing? For the simple fact that we learn empathy for others who have been judged and condemned; whether they’ve been rightly judged or condemned or not. The blessing is we too have sat in the seat of injustice — as Jesus did. Again, whether we deserve the view people have of us or not, that view, having been judged or condemned, is unfortunate. It’s sad. It’s a horrible shame that people have their view and it won’t easily be shifted.
Even though being judged and/or condemned is painful, it is God’s blessing to experience and endure it, because empathy is piqued and nurtured and matured — if we don’t continue to resent it. If we see the purpose in the pain is to teach and grow us.
Only when we’re judged and condemned are we able to feel the loneliness that Christ felt. It is blessed to know that Christ knows how we feel. We’re growing in His empathy.
The outcome of our empathy is a sympathy for others and their situations that overrides the callousness of judgment and condemnation. We actively seek to build others up rather than be tempted to tear them down.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Purpose of Experience – To Torment or To Teach

As I raked up the leaves on our driveway and front lawn, it occurred to me that God was teaching me something important about life; something I had missed so many years previously. He had been teaching me the same lesson for nearly the past twelve months.
Initially the lesson had tormented me into varying degrees of chagrin. But now the lesson was teaching me. Such lessons always take time to learn. It was a most important lesson.
The lesson started where I worked, blowing leaves from one place to another. The leaves blew from one place, and I blew them back there, only for them to be blown back. Seems futile, but leaf removal is not the purpose of this task in my life at this stage. God has made it clear it is a lesson. That lesson is to simply watch for the lessons contained within each leaf-blowing experience. Many of them are gold. From a futile task? No. It is no longer seen as a futile, never-ending task. All that was needed was a change in my attitude. To jettison the closed tormented mind. To embrace the teachable open mind.
It’s the same with people. There are some who will always rub us up the wrong way. Some seem to be placed in our lives simply to torment us. But, equally, these same people God has allowed into our lives. He put them there. For a purpose. We would prefer to deal with ‘lovely’ and ‘pretty’ people who help make us feel good, who agree with us, and who inspire us or love us the way we want to be loved. But we would learn nothing about love or inspiration or the Divine if our lives weren’t scattered with unlovely people and difficult situations.
Consider that, for some people, we ourselves are unlovely people. Not everyone has had a bevy of positive experiences with us. Some we have hurt. Others have given up on us. Others, again, cannot work us out. Some cannot work with us at all.
Those we don’t get along with are simply a mirror to us of those who don’t get along with us.
So, we can afford some empathy. We can glimpse humility in entertaining the truth. We’re not as lovely as we’d love to be. The truth only hurts if we continue to court our pride. Better, every day, to pour contempt on it.
Unlovely and unloving people and the tougher situations of life are there either to torment us or to teach us. Which will it be? How would we have it?
It’s the plainest choice of life. Frustration or fulfilment? Infuriation or intrigue? Folly or wisdom? It’s a choice; the easiest thing you will ever do. Make it and live.
God has His purpose in every experience of life.
And I will concede there are atrocities in life that should never happen. Thank God that even out of travesty He can make things new.