A few years ago, I sat and ate with a preacher and his family after a Slugs & Bugs concert, utterly stunned by their working relationships. The 3 year old son repeatedly hit the mom, spilled his drink on her on purpose, threw his food and spit right in his mom’s face. Meanwhile, the preacher did absolutely nothing to deter or address the insane behavior. I was so incensed and flabbergasted by the whole thing that I ended up excusing myself early before I said something I would regret.
I stewed and prayed the whole drive back to the hotel, and I had a difficult time getting to sleep that night. For days, then weeks, then months, I intended to call or write this guy and have a talk. At first, I wanted to shame him for his utter neglect of his spouse. Later, I wanted to help him – warn him about the kind of kids he was raising, and appeal to his sense of gospel sanity as a father and a leader. Eventually, I let myself forget about it – either unconvinced it was my place to intervene, or too scared of the confrontation.
Then, this morning, I had a conversation with a friend about their 5 year old daughter. She was adopted at 2 years old, like my son Benjamin, and they share unusual attention-seeking behaviors. They both ask constantly ask questions they already know the answers to, and they both pretend to be dumb sometimes. But my friend’s daughter also hit, stomped on, and spit on her in bizarre circumstances. She may simply be working through the pain that she carries from having been orphaned, but still, as they say with a hashtag, #notgonnafly.
For years, they’ve been struggling (with admirable communication, maturity and self-discipline) with how to stop this unacceptable behavior, and nothing has worked, until a few months ago. Out of desperation, they applied a new strategy. They would totally ignore their daughter’s terrible behavior, unless it really injured somebody.
What!?! I can’t imagine the incredible restraint required for this parenting tack, but they did it. And it worked. After two months (two months!) of prayerful endurance in private and in public, the spitting, hitting and stomping all but dried up. Amazing. There’s a whole ‘nother blog post in there somewhere.
But that got me thinking about that preacher and his family so many moons ago. I really don’t know what they were going through. If I had loved them instead of judging them, a follow-up phone call might have been much easier to make. We might have become great friends.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. – James 1:19-20