The Basic Christian Life: Two Types of Wisdom – Part 9

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James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

Check out this passage:

Jas 3:13-18: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (NKJV; emphasis mine)

Everyone is “wise”… to some degree, in some way. Wisdom is taking the truth that you know, filtered through the experiences you’ve had and then applying it both to your own life, and directly or indirectly teaching it to others (through word or example).

Everyone is “wise”. Just depends on WHICH wise, and HOW wise.

At the highest level, pure wisdom is whatever God says is true (through direct words or our ability to discover it).

On a personal level, wisdom is your personal truth (as you know it and have experienced) applied to life. For example, my teenage son recently had a car wreck. He was the passenger. Another car hit his door at highway speeds and almost killed him. His seat belt and an airbag saved him (of course we know God’s providential was what actually saved him). So now he is “wise” about car safety: wear your seatbelt, make sure you buy a car with airbags, be careful about pulling out into highway traffic.

He’ll teach this wisdom directly by telling other kids to buckle up and saying “look how it saved my life”. He’ll indirectly spread this wisdom by setting the example every time he gets in a car.  It’s a truth he has learned that he now applies to his life, and shares with others about their life. Wisdom.

There is wisdom about life, business, relationships, marriage, family, money and spiritual issues. Each of us has “wisdom” on all these topics. To the extent it is based on truth, and then communicated accurately, it is a good wisdom that benefits all.  Our wisdom will exist in degrees based on our experience, the time we’ve taken to learn and contemplate something, and how much we’ve tested out our conclusions in real life.

So, we ALL have wisdom whether we think we do or not. Name a topic, especially a broad life topic (God, politics, money, family, marriage, relationships, etc) and pretty everyone has their own idea about it. That is their “wisdom”. When that wisdom is expressed we call that an opinion. Wisdom is just YOUR knowledge about life and then your application of it.

Of course we all know, some people are wiser than others. What we mean by this is that some people are closer to the “truth”; some people have more experience, some people live out truth more consistently and some people are better able to communicate truth. A combination of these things is what we collectively call the “wisdom” of an individual.  The closer to the truth (in our opinion) someone is, the more demonstrated experience they have on a certain topic, and the more effective they are at sharing it all is the degree to which we say a persona is more or less “wise”.

As Christians we apply another layer… we then judge the degree to which a person’s truth lines up with God’s Truth and we consider a person more wise as they come into line with God’s Word.

Okay, having said all that, what is the point. The point is, to be wise is a good thing. To share that wisdom is not only the right thing to do but a duty for us as Christians. God does not give us wisdom only for ourselves. He gives it so that we may share it among others.

There Are Only Two Choices

The key is this: there are two source of wisdom, two standards by which we determine if wisdom is truly wise, or just seems wise in our human eyes. Genuine wisdom, authentic wisdom, effective wisdom, wisdom that counts for eternity has one measuring stick only: GOD. To the degree our wisdom agrees with, illuminates and parallels the revealed wisdom of God… to that extent our wisdom is TRUE wisdom (as God measures it).

Period. That’s it.  That’s the standard. Your choice: man or God.  Those are the only sources of intelligence (thinking; wisdom). Pick one. Here’s what James says about it:

Jas 3:13: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. (NKJV)

First, wisdom is bolstered and authenticated by how we live. You can’t speak words that are not backed up by how you live. Even if your words are wise, a life not lived accordingly will cause those words to be doubted, rejected or worse, seen as the OPPOSITE of the truth.

“John says marriage is sacred and you should be committed to your vows but look how badly he treats his wife and everyone knows he flirts like crazy…”  Wisdom that is not backed up with good conduct is wisdom that will be ignored and rejected.

Jas 3:14-16: But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (NKJV)

There are two sources of wisdom, two springs, two origins. One is from the heart of man, one is from the heart of God. James doesn’t have a lot of good things to say about wisdom that originates in the heart of man… it is envious, prideful, self-seeking, sensual, demonic and confusing. Don’t believe him? Look around.

  • Look at all the “wisdom” in the political world today. Self seeking? Envious? Deceitful? What a perfect example right in front of us all.
  • Look at all the “wisdom” in pop culture today. Sensual? Evil?
  • Look at all the “wisdom” of religion… talk about confusing.

The world is full of wisdom with a million voices telling you their version of truth. This is exactly why the Bible makes the choice so definitive: God or man. Pick your source.  Man’s wisdom, just in case you missed it is: self serving, self seeking, self bias, self benefiting, self motivated… see a pattern? Man’s wisdom is always motivated by self interest because of our nature to look out for NUMBER ONE,.

Jas 3:17-18: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (NKJV)

These verses tell us why we want God’s wisdom, and what it looks like so we’ll be able to recognize it.

  • Pure: unmixed with any other matter; free from dust, dirt, or taint; spotless, stainless; free from harshness or roughness and being in tune; being thus and no other
  • Peaceable: disposed to peace; not contentious or quarrelsome; quietly behaved; marked by freedom from strife or disorder
  • Gentle: free from harshness, sternness, or violence: delicate; moderate
  • Willing to yield: to give or render as fitting, rightfully owed; to give up possession of claim or demand; quck to show deference to others; willing submissiveness to others
  • Full of mercy: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender; lenient or compassionate treatment; compassionate treatment of those in distress; charity, clemency, grace, leniency in disposition
  • Good fruit: the effect or consequence of an action or operation; the life of a Christian should produce Godly fruit (Gal 5:22; Eph 5:9)
  • Without partiality: wisdom that shows no favoritism to people because of their status or because of personal benefit to us
  • Without hypocrisy: wisdom that is applied to our own lives as well

Evaluate your own wisdom, and the wisdom pronounced by others and see if it measures up to that standard. To the degree that it does, then you can safely embrace it as “wisdom from above” – God’s wisdom. This is wisdom that we can count on, that will truly make a difference, that will make our lives better, that will help us walk the Christian life in the most fulfilling way.

Most conscientious people want to be “wise”. Christians have a unique source of wisdom that is promised unconditionally:

James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (NKJV)

It’s just like our good God to tell us we SHOULD BE wise, then turn right around and provide us with all the wisdom we can ever ask for (have you been asking?).  God never directs us to do something or be something that He does not then provide for.

Wisdom… there you have it. It’s either fleshly or Godly. Now you know how to tell the difference and where you should get more.


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This Fad, That Fad

A question from a reader:

I was listening to Christian teacher who was criticizing the Purpose Driven Life. Do you have an opinion on the book?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Every time I get asked about one of the books or programs that have swept the church, I quickly find myself swept up in controversy and the target of much criticism. I get hammered with anecdotal evidence of how this book or that program “changed my life”.  Rarely, in fact NEVER, does anyone write and actually Biblically refute the facts of what I’ve stated… they just impugn the overall conclusion with emotional argument.  However, the Truth is the truth and I continue to stick my neck out anyway.

There is no doubt that author of Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren, believes and teaches a Biblical Gospel message. I count him as a fellow Believer. That he has not watered down his message and wandered off into a social Gospel (social good is the major emphasis of faith, all faiths work together while not evangelizing anyone) is a matter of public record.

Purpose Driven Life 1) contains a lot of the usual humanist psychology passed off as Bible teaching and 2) is concerning because of its employment of prooftexting (ripping Bible verses out of context to support a predetermined point or lesson being taught).  It’s use of THE MESSAGE by Eugene Peterson is surprising, since THE MESSAGE is 1) a paraphrase not a translation, 2) a paraphrase by one person, and 3) a paraphrase heavily distorted by humanistic psychology.  On the other hand, given the humanist psychology in both books and the need for Warren to find verses that support the ideas in his book, it’s really not all that surprising that THE MESSAGE is used.

Purpose Driven Life stripped of Scripture and it’s Christian label would just be another self help book based on tired, ineffective and unScriptural psychology.  It could have been written by Zig Ziglar or Tony Robbins just as easily as Rick Warren (if stripped of Christian references).

A note about THE MESSAGE: I make no apologies for adamantly insisting serious Christians discard and avoid THE MESSAGE. It is simply a BAD Bible version, a dangerous combination of fluffy and often blatant humanist psychology, not to mention routinely inaccurate interpretations of the original text. Not all of it of course… in fact, not MOST of it (as the saying goes, most false teaching is 98% truth); enough for sure to make it a Bible version Christians should categorically reject. It’s flowery prose and easy reading have made it a mass favorite of unwitting or unwilling Believers. There is not nearly enough benefit to outweigh the detriment of THE MESSAGE.

As for Purpose Driven Life, if taken as sound Bible teaching it misses the mark substantially.  It’s use of prooftexting is inexcusable given Warren’s Biblical knowledge. It presents itself as having unmistakable Biblical support when in fact, even the concept of “40” so heavily pronounced in the book is blatant prooftexting and a pattern that is both insignificant and irrelevant in Scripture (when compared to how it is presented by Warren). As well, the whole idea of “purpose driven life” while not bad as a single life application point in some sermon or book, is taken to an extreme with Purpose Driven Life making it seem like that concept is a pervasive thread in Scripture and should be a dominating theme of Christian life. When measured against Scripture, it simply does not enjoy such status.

Purpose Driven Life , if taken as light, motivational, life application teaching with some good points and reasonable advice, is a decent enough book though 1) you aren’t going to suffer spiritual lack if you never read it, and 2) it can mislead many Christians into thinking the Bible ACTUALLY TEACHES what Warren writes rather than it simply being a good idea Warren came up with. As a Bible teacher, it concerns me greatly because it presents a wildly popular and accepted example of prooftexting, thereby leading other Christians to employ prooftexting in teaching.

Think about it. If I write an exposition or commentary on the Book of James, it’s a yawner… no one cares. If I come up with some catchy phrase, feel-good theme and easy to read slick message on how to be more spiritual… then write a book liberally dressed in Christian lingo with so much prooftexting no one can question it’s Biblical support… BAM! I’m a national bestselling author and the next Christian superstar. See anything wrong with that kind of fad/trend based spiritually that routinely sweeps the Church?

Big deal, right? Who cares about a little prooftexting. All Christians should. It’s the reason why we have massive amounts of false teaching, over 2500 “flavors” of Christianity, and the ability to find anyone anytime teaching any viewpoint that tickles our ears.

As with most fads that sweep the Church, it’s revealing that this book has replaced serious Bible study for masses of professing Believers. The overwhelming cult status of books like Purpose Driven Life and The Shack expose a shallow level of discernment, sound teaching and Biblical worldview in the American church today.

Throw away your copy of THE MESSAGE. Skip Purpose Driven Life… spend time reading your Bible. It’s pretty Scripturally accurate and written by a well respected author! 🙂

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Why Do Young People Have to Die?

Here is an inquiry that I received from a college-aged young lady:

There’s this question I have been struggling with for a while now. I understand why people grow old and die naturally but why do young people have to die? I know a 21 year old girl who was driving home for a friends house at 3 am and was disoriented and flipped her car and died. She was a wonderful girl. My cousin’s best friend was on meds, it did something to his heart and he died randomly at 21.

I just don’t understand why young people have to die. My dad was telling me that he believes that the sin that brought our world to imperfection makes these things happen, that God will help sometimes but not always. What makes Him choose who dies and who lives?

First, I don’t propose to have any clue on why or how God chooses to do what He does (who lives, who dies in this case) unless the Bible clearly declares His reasons for all of us to know.  In the case of a young person or baby dying, or a “good person” having bad things happen to them, that belongs to the secret knowledge of God and there it shall stay with my comments. Now, on to what we can know based on the Bible…

Your Dad is correct. God chooses for His own reasons when to intervene in human events but regardless, God will make all things right for eternity. That’s what we base our hope on as Christians. That’s why the “unfairness” of this existence does not cause us to despair like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). That’s why injustice, suffering and bad things do not steal our joy as Believers.

A fact of human existence is people of all ages die and bad things happen to “good” people because of one reason: SIN. Not necessarily specific sin they’ve committed individually (though that can often be a factor), but the overall sin of humanity.

Sin is what caused God’s creation to be cursed.  The curse brings accidents, disease, suffering, unfairness, injustice and evil.

Every time something like this happens, it reminds us of how horrible sin is, and how we should long for Jesus to return so that all the bad things will end.  It reminds us of how perfect God is, and how imperfect we (as a whole of humanity) are not.

Our collective sinfulness, and the curse it brought on God’s creation is the origin of all the bad things that happen (Romans 5:12). Some day sin and the curse will be removed forever (2Pet 3:10; Rev 21:1)… until then, we trust that God will ultimately make all things right, punish all evil, reward all good, and rest in His perfect love and care.

We should have an eternal perspective… see things eternally, not just from the temporary nature of this life. This sin-cursed creation will be a blink, a wisp, a vapor compared to eternity. As we call this to mind, it helps us remain joyful and hopeful it the face of hardship or uncertainty.  Our hope is in God’s faithfulness and unfailing promises:

  • Psalm 39:7 – “And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. (NKJV)
  • Titus 1:2 – in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, (NKJV)
  • Romans 5:5 – Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (NKJV)
  • Romans 15:13 – Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (NKJV)
  • Psalm 146:5 – Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, (NKJV)

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The Basic Christian Life: That Little Thing That Controls Your Entire Life- Part 8

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James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

There are few things that have more influence or cause us more regret than our MOUTH… that little thing between your teeth that does indeed at times seem to be utterly untameable.

A few rare souls exist that don’t fight the constant battle of tongue but they are few and far between, or they are liars and self-deceived. There is always room for tongue improvement no matter how mature or self controlled we are. We can always be kinder. We can always be wiser in what we say. We can always hold our tongue just a little more. We can always choose better words. We can always say something more edifying, more blessing, more effective.

But… most of us are not at the point where we are simply fine-tuning and improving our “tongue” (our words, our language, our communication).  Most of us are still WAY BACK near square one where we are cleaning up our language from foul or crude words; we are trying to learn not to gossip; we are working hard not to be so abrasive… and the list goes on:

  • Complaining
  • Mumbling discontentment
  • Gossip
  • Ungratefulness
  • Impatience
  • Rudeness
  • Sarcasm
  • Veiled criticism
  • Open criticism

Those are things we need to QUIT. Then, there is the matter of the things we don’t say that we should be saying:

  • Blessing
  • Thanks
  • Encouragement
  • Kindness
  • Sympathy
  • Compassion

See what I mean? The tongue is a HUGE issue, a monumental, pervasive part of our life; something that affects every moment of our waking hours.

Don’t Get in a Hurry to Teach

Typical of James, he has very practical and blunt advice about the Christian mouth. Let’s take a look:

Jas 3:1: My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. (NKJV)

In context, James warns us that few should become teachers. What is the primary tool of the teacher? The mouth. Every word a teacher utters, using their tongue to influence and guide others, will be judged. Teachers will be held accountable for what they say. In a broader application, there are other reasons. Not all are gifted as public teachers (we are all private teachers in some manner to our family and friends). The temptation of wanting to be “up front” can result in pride and the desire for recognition. If a teacher is not willing to do the hard work of preparation and diligently learn God’s Word, they can misguide hearers no matter how good their intentions may be. James specifically warns against many becoming teachers because they have to be very diligent about controlling their tongue not only while teaching but in their daily life as well.

The Key to Perfection

Jas 3:2: For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. (NKJV)

Of course we know that no man can truly be perfect in this sin-cursed world. This bit of rhetoric is used to emphasis both the importance of controlling the tongue, and the difficulty. James is saying something like “we fail in a lot of ways but all of our other failures combined aren’t equal to how much our tongue gets us in trouble. You’d be perfect if you could keep that thing under control”.

From a practical perspective, if we could perfectly control our words, how much trouble would it save us? How many mistakes would be avoided? How many regrets would not be realized? How many more opportunities for blessing would be utilized instead of missed?  In that sense, James does not exaggerate… if we could control our tongue, it would seem like our life is pretty much perfect compared to what it actually is now.

Imagine in heaven, all of us will say only the right thing. Really… stop and think about that. No words to regret, no embarrassing miscues, no angry outbursts we wish we could take back, no gossip, no lies, no false teaching, no misunderstandings. I would say one of the greatest gifts of heaven will be that our tongues will no longer be sin-cursed and we won’t have to feel the sting anymore of knowing that once again we just said something we shouldn’t have said.

The Power of the Tongue

Jas 3:3-6: Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. (NKJV)

Next, James gives us perfectly clear analogies about how powerful our tongue is. It is a tiny part that moves and controls big things. A spark that lights an entire forest on fire. A tiny rudder that steers a huge ship.  A little metal bar in the mouth of big powerful horse controlling their every movement. It is the tiny hole in a dam that causes the whole structure to burst. It is the single atom that sets off a nuclear chain reaction.

The message is clear: do not underestimate the power of your tongue or it’s affect not only on you but those around you. Look at the extreme language (and nothing in the Bible is an accident): the tongue is a FIRE, a world of inquity (evil). The tongue defiles the WHOLE body, set on fire by hell and able to destroy our entire life.  James could hardly use stronger descriptions so it is to our benefit to sit up and really take notice.

Preach It Brother!

Jas 3:7-9: For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. (NKJV)

James continues with extreme descriptions meant to really get our attention. Man can tame the wildest beast, the most ferocious animal… yet can’t keep his tongue still.  The tongue is an out-of-control evil!   You won’t hear that proclaimed in today’s “feel good, positive thinking, successful life, ear tickling” sermonettes. Imagine America’s Most Popular Pastor preaching this:

“All you people, listen up! Your tongue is an evil, uncontrollable monster! Your mouth is full of poison! You bless people one minute then tear them down the next! You should not be doing that. Get that wicked tongue under control and it will solve most of your other problems!”

James would not be invited back for a second sermon and yet who can deny that all humans have been guilty of this very thing? Truth be known, most people are guilty of it on a regular basis. God didn’t have the writers of the Bible exaggerate unjustly so they could make a point. What James is saying is dead-on Truth and the spiritually mature have no difficulty in understanding and agreeing with his every word. The tongue is absolutely a primary cause of difficulties and failures as we walk through our daily life. 

Note: of course what proceeds from the mouth starts in the heart, but that’s a whole other message. Matt 15:18

No, we will rarely hear James words loudly proclaimed today. Yet this sweeping truth should dictate regular lessons and admonition about our tongue.  Think about it. If the tongue is such a pervasive issue and struggle, can we give the topic a few minutes of consideration every couple of years and really hope to make progress? No friends. I would say that being alert, praying for God’s help, and constantly evaluating the words that proceed from our mouth would be a priority every day. After all, if you can control your tongue, you can be “perfect”.

Squeezing Lemons

Jas 3:10-12: Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. (NKJV)

James concludes saying in essence “don’t kid yourself”.  You cannot bless and curse with the same tongue and feel right about it. You can’t pretend your life is on the right track. That’s like having clean water and dirty water come out of the same faucet.  No water source can be both fresh and salty. If it has salt at all, it’s all salty. In other words, you cannot compartmentalize your tongue and say “well it’s mostly good”.  If it’s not all good, it’s no good.  Don’t kid yourself. You’ve still got work to do.

One of my favorite sayings is “when you squeeze a lemon, you get lemon juice.” This means what is truly inside someone cannot be concealed especially when the pressures of life are applied. James presents the same idea… whatever you are, you are. You can’t be an apple tree and produce grapes. You can’t be a milk weed and produce cherries.  If your tongue is spewing out gossip, unkindness, lies and anger don’t pretend that a few words of kindness a moment later changes the essence of who you are.

It’s a zero sum game when it comes to the tongue: you either are, or you aren’t.  You can’t bless and curse out of the same mouth. You can’t pray and gossip out of the same mouth. You can’t teach and lie out of the same mouth. You can’t get clean water out of a sewage spout. Well, you can… but you shouldn’t.

We will not be perfect until we shed this sin-cursed body and meet Jesus face to face. God doesn’t require perfection… His only Son filled in the gap for us. But God does expect us to be WORKING TOWARDS PERFECTION, not in an effort to merit God’s approval or salvation but from a response of gratitude and love, wanting to be more like Jesus every day as we prepare to live for all eternity with Him. Oh yeah, and taming your tongue also makes you a lot nicer person to be around too.

I love James. He just gets right to the point doesn’t he?


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Parenting in 2010

I recently observed a woman spend half an hour forcing her daughter to take a “time out” for misbehaving.  The daughter would not cooperate. She got up, tore up things, kicked over her chair, tried to resume playing, threw fits and tried to hit the Mom (not violent hitting, just typical little kid “I don’t like you” kind of hand slapping).

The mother just kept putting her back on the chair over and over, refusing to give up. She put her back on the chair 20-30 times. I’ll give her a tidbit of credit for that… it puts her well ahead of a lot of parents who simply would have given in or deceived themselves into thinking a punishment had occurred by the act of trying to make them sit. “That’ll teach you! Throw another fit and I’ll attempt to make you sit here again!”

However, all the Mom really did was out last the child. The little girl learned nothing intrinsic to her character development, and her level of personal discipline and obedience was not increased at all. She finally complied out of compromise, knowing that she could not continue on with what she wanted until she “gave in” to her five minute time out.

This may work temporarily with younger children but will fail miserably down the road with adolescents and teens who are more sophisticated and physically capable.  While this type of technique is better than NOTHING and better than giving in to a child completely, it’s only slightly better and in the long run may be more destructive because it allows the parent some artificial satisfaction but avoids teaching the child anything substantive about obedience or discipline.

(Note: when I teach about parenting, I speak in broad, TYPICAL, generalities unless otherwise stated. I always get blasted by those who believe they are the EXCEPTION to what I’m saying. I’m just stating an opinion from my experience and observation of 45 years and 7 kids. If you are the exception or disagree with me, that’s cool. You don’t answer to me for your parenting… just take it for what it’s worth).

Parenting That Isn’t Parenting

Here’s my point: in the decades-long ongoing effort to demonize and avoid the “s-word” at all cost, the new fad for “effective parenting” is REDIRECTION and DISTRACTION.  Both of those techniques have their  place in parenting when used properly in conjunction with other discipline including spanking (gasp! did he really say ‘spanking’?????) but when relied upon solely are most often an exercise in futility.

For example, imagine your kids are bickering, demanding, fit-throwing brats at the supermarket (a sad reality for many parents) UNTIL you make up some game where they get to pick out the food and put it in the basket.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Well behaved kids at last!

Nope, mission unaccomplished… all you are doing is distracting them. You aren’t instilling obedience, respect and self control. The distraction only works until the kids get bored of it and it’s not fun anymore. Then you have to think up another even more distracting distraction. The bar is continually raised when we parent by distraction.

Distraction (when used as primary technique) caters to their self-centeredness. It’s round and round and round and round searching for the next distraction that will 1) keep your kids from acting like heathens (and embarrassing you) and 2) let’s you avoid the real work, the hard work, of actually molding their character and instilling self control.

Redirection falls into the same category… it can be useful at times but when used a primary parenting objective avoids actually addressing/correcting the problem and cultivating genuine maturity.  Little Johnny throws a fit so we find him an activity he enjoys. We feel like such good parents because Little Johnny is no longer screeching and wailing. Look at how well behaved Little Monster, er, Little Johnny is when he is getting his way! Why, even we adults are well behaved when we get our way!  In reality, we have fed into Little Johnny’s selfish worldview where he always needs to feel good and his way (even if we have manipulated him into believing he is getting his way).

Or, Darling Susie is being selfish to the other children and we step in and find something else she wants even more so that Darling Susie will now “share” what she has.  Wrong answer… Darling Susie’s selfishness and narcissism has simply been reinforced but at least we don’t look like bad parents by escorting little Darling Susie to the woodshed and applying a meaningful consequence (that’s code for “spanking” but I have to be really careful to avoid actually saying it).

Parenting That Helps Parents But Not Kids

Folks, parenting that does not address the root causes of selfishness, disobedience, defiance, rebelliousness and sin is parenting that only helps THE PARENTS, not the child. Redirecting the temper tantrum or distracting the selfishness may make life better for YOU, Mom and Dad, but it is doing nothing towards cultivating character, selflessness, obedience and self-control in your children.

Disclaimer: Every time I mention spanking I have to toss in all the fine print and caveats or the whole response will come from defensive readers who claim to be the exception. Am I saying that spanking is the magic key to all parenting? No, but it is pretty magical when done properly, consistently, patiently and lovingly. As a general rule, the younger the child (starting when they are old enough to defy you and blatantly disobey), the more effective spanking is when appropriately administered. The only reason spanking became a topic of this post is because it is the obvious alternative to this modern parenting fad of “redirecting” and “distraction”.

What About Those Other Parenting Techniques?

Timeouts are good when used the right way for the right reasons. Example: “Johnny, if I see you not sharing again with your sister, you’re going to get a 20 minute time out.”  Consequence declared… an appropriate punishment.  If 20 minutes doesn’t do it maybe 30 minutes or an hour will. The point is that the consequence is KNOWN to the child. Now, if Little Johnny doesn’t want to do his time, throws a fit on the way to time-out or gives you a good mouthing off because of it, then timeout alone is no longer appropriate.

Redirection is good when used appropriately and not avoiding addressing the real issues of the heart. Example, at the end of a long day of traveling: “Johnny, I know you are tired because we’ve been in the car all day but you are still not allowed to be mean and grouchy to the rest of us. C’mon, I’ll read you a story for bedtime but if you say something mean again, you’re going to get a spanking.”  This is a compassionate response that takes into account a child’s age appropriate emotions after a hard day while also addressing the need to incrementally instill self control and maturity as they grow.

Distraction is useful as long as character failures are not ignored. Example, when Johnny has been sick with a cold and you know you have to go sit in the Doctor’s office: “Johnny, listen I know you don’t feel good but you still are not allowed to throw fits and whine.  Let’s get some coloring books and your favorite game packed up so that we will have something to do at the doctor’s office.”  This type of compassionate response recognizes that sick kids aren’t mature enough to “tough it out” all the time without lapses in behavior, and anticipates a difficult time which can be helped by distraction. But it does NOT ignore the need to teach them “regardless of how you feel, you still have to rise to a certain level of good behavior”.

Notice the pattern? Compassion for the child’s situation and needs combined with INTOLERANCE for misbehavior, defiance, selfishness and disobedience. I’ve used “spanking” and “intolerance” in the same blog post proving that I’m some throwback to the Dark Ages.

What are your questions about parenting?  I’ll fire up the oil lamps in the dungeon and if I have time between Crusades, I’ll answer your inquiries and comments.

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