Jeanie’s and my philosophy on disciplining our young children was to consider their motive when they did something that needed to be corrected. For instance, if one of them broke a dish because they were being willfully defiant, we would have handled it much differently than if they had accidentally knocked it off the table. The former would have required a lesson in who is in charge. The latter possibly a reminder that we don’t run in the house. Hopefully that makes sense.
I believe it is important to recognize that we can do the same behavior for a myriad of reasons. Those reasons are important… maybe even more important than the actions. This is true of little children and adults.
We are way past the little children stage. Our former little girls are now adults, and I find myself asking them to judge me by my motive, rather than my behavior. You see, I don’t always behave in ways that make sense for what I want to achieve, and often, my behavior sends the wrong message. I have desires for them to have great lives because they are all great women. (I am amazed at how different they are). I love them and everything I do is ultimately motivated by that love.
It does not look like it. When I am tired or angry or hungry or there’s just been a lot of noise for a long time… I get grouchy. When I am grouchy you don’t want to be around me.
Over the holidays (and graduation time), we were enjoying lots of company coming in and out. One evening, I was helping one of my daughters when another one asked me a question from the next room. I should have asked her to wait a moment so I could give her my attention, but, I thought I could answer her question without even breaking my stride. (After all I am super dad who can juggle all questions and help everyone without batting an eye… NOT!). I was already tired. It was late and although I didn’t know it, I was getting grouchy.
My response came across the wrong way. How do I know? Because she told me so. She said, “You don’t have to be snappy!” Well that is not what I wanted to hear. Or was it? Believe it or not, that is exactly what I want to hear. I want to know when my actions don’t fit my motives. It was as if her response was saying, “Dad, I know you love me and you care about me, but your words didn’t match that.” Of course, this is my interpretation days later. In the moment I felt a flush of anger. Not at her, but I felt angry because I desired to help everyone and make everyone happy and I can’t do that. Her words reminded me that I am not super dad.
Because I have been practicing (a lot), I was able to ask myself in the moment what I was feeling and why. Which led me to the response I wanted to give. I took responsibility for my part and apologized for my words. Then I explained that I was trying to do too much and I asked her to wait until I had a moment and I would help her. Fortunately, she received my apology and we were able to work everything out.
It all happened in about 20 seconds and it was over. It was uncomfortable. It was a learning and growing experience for me. I felt closer to everyone involved as a result of the conflict.
I want to have more uncomfortable situations like that. Does that sound crazy? I want it for the same reasons and in the same way that I want my legs to hurt. It isn’t that I really enjoy it when my legs are sore from running, but I want to run to make my body stronger and healthier. The long term benefit makes the pain worth it. I want to be comfortable with being uncomfortable emotionally so I can communicate my heart more clearly and continue to grow into who God wants me to be. It is worth the pain. I desire to have a real, honest relationship with my family. I want to be able to say what I am feeling and hear what they are feeling.
Thank you for hearing my heart instead of my words. My motives over my actions.