Responding God's way (in God's power)Jul 11, 2022
Recently, one of my teens and I butted heads. This is astounding to you, I know. I mean, if anyone has ever raised, known, or been a teenager, you know just how rarely they push back on anything their parents say. (I can’t use emojis on the blog, but if I could, you would see an entire row of eyerolls right here.) The teen in question said something hurtful and disrespectful. The words came out of their own hurt and confusion. They were not really about me. But they still stung. Everything in me wanted to hit back—metaphorically speaking, of course. And I knew I could justify whatever response I gave. I could dole out punishment. I could cut them down. I could let them know in no uncertain terms that they were wrong and I wouldn’t stand for it.
I know you can relate. It’s not just about parents and kids. We’ve all been in a conflict with someone where we knew we were right and they were wrong. We’ve been justifiably angry. We’ve been sure of ourselves. We’ve been ready to make it known just how wrong/rude/dumb/just plain ridiculous the other person is being. And it feels so good to be right, doesn’t it? To take down the enemy and feel the power of having the upper hand.
I mean, I can feel my blood pressure rising even as I type!
But (You could feel the “but” coming, couldn’t you?) what if being right isn’t the most important part of the interaction? What if how we approach conflict (or any communication) is every bit as vital as what we say?
After all, as I shared last week, God calls us to treat each other in ways that don’t always come naturally. His Word tells us that being His “chosen ones” involves treating each other with compassion, kindness, humility, patience (Colossians 3:12-13)—you know, all the things that don’t come naturally when someone is pushing all of your buttons. And while we are absolutely to remain rooted in truth, our interactions are not to be marked by stubbornness and anger and being-right-at-all-costs. We are called to be like Christ, who patiently endured many abuses and injustices, and responded with sacrifice and love.
So back to my kiddo. I’m not gonna lie, I’m guessing a flash of anger may have crossed my face. I wanted so badly to lash out. Instead, I took a deep breath and said a quick prayer that God would give me compassion. I didn’t excuse their behavior, but instead of berating, I gently but firmly said, “That was disrespectful. I am so sorry that we are butting heads on this, but we can disagree and still treat each other with respect. You won’t speak to me that way.”
My teen wasn’t happy. To be honest, I wasn’t especially happy. They uttered a quick (but not heartfelt) apology, and we moved on. Later, though, my kiddo found me and apologized—for real. We hugged. We talked about some of the underlying issues. We didn’t walk away in total agreement, but we could have a solid discussion where we both felt heard (and where boundaries are at least respected even if they aren’t necessarily agreed upon). By responding with compassion and patience, I was able to keep lines of communication open that would have been shut down completely if I had lashed out in anger.
I tell you this not to pat myself on the back. I have failed at this far more often than I’d like to admit. I tell you this story to sing God’s praises. It was His Word that pierced my heart, His strength that calmed my anger, His wisdom that brought forth words of compassion instead of words of wrath. And because of Him, the relationship deepened instead of fracturing.
How can our interactions look more Christ-like, friend? Where can we be willing to sacrifice winning an argument in the short run so that we can deepen a relationship in the long run? When can we respond with kindness even though anger seems justified?
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