Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: abuse

Somebody ought to do something

Just about every day the media presents new evidence of bullying, neglected and mistreated children, juvenile prostitution, verbal, physical and sexual abuse, youth gangs and all the other problems that seem to afflict the children and youth of our society. Cries of distress and outrage go up and there is a universal feeling that something needs to be done.

Most folks seem to think it is the government that should be doing something. However, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of agreement about what needs to be done.

Governments are already doing a lot, but is it working? Social service agencies have developed into huge bureaucracies and are given extensive authority to intervene in situations where children are deemed to be at risk. The number of children at risk continues to balloon. In the province where I live there is an ongoing investigation into problems in the foster parent system.

For anyone who does not have his eyes blinded by utopian fantasies it should be evident by now that governments are impotent when it comes to fixing these problems. In fact, the problems have been exacerbated by ongoing government interventions over the past 100 years. The thinkers behind the public school system made no secret of their goal to reduce the influence of parents. There has been an ongoing attempt, couched in idealistic terms, to set children free from their parents. I could have said ideological; however it seems that many of those involved in this nationwide sociological experiment did not have a clear vision of where they were going.

Now we see the results, but it has happened so gradually that most parents don’t have an inkling that things could, and should, be done differently. Yet parents are the only ones capable of making a difference. Top-down solutions do not work. Bottoms up, grass roots, solutions are presently making a difference for the children of those parents who have dropped out of the top-down, government run system.

If we want different results, we have to march to the sound of a different drummer. We should not harbour any utopian dreams, there never was an era where parents did all things in the best possible way and it’s not going to happen in our era, either. “Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity” (Psalm 39:5). We are fallen people in a fallen world, yet by the grace of God we can make a difference.

The Word of God has some essential guidelines for parents: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7); “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

There are many other such instructions. There are some Christians who seem to think that corporal punishment is the most essential part of child training. It is not. The essential part is patient, consistent teaching, by word and example, from the cradle to adulthood.

The thinking of the times in which we live has invaded the churches, causing them to fall short in encouraging and supporting parents in their responsibilities. It is important for Christian parents to raise their children in a community of believers who share their faith, their convictions, their goals. But it is not the responsibility of others to train our children, not the church, not the school, not the government. God has entrusted these tender children to the care of their parents and the Holy Spirit will guide parents in fulfilling that responsibility if they will ask.

It is parents who ought to be doing something more than what they are presently doing. They are the ones who have the potential, with God’s help, to turn back the tide and raise up a generation that is respectful, responsible and compassionate.

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Love means saying I’m sorry

Have you ever observed someone who, in the heat of the moment made a harsh, cutting remark, or even exploded in anger, then felt bad about it but could not bring himself or herself to apologize? I’m sure you have, unless your whole life has been spent alone on an island.

I once knew a man whose childhood had been absolutely miserable, with multiple experiences of rejection and abuse. He became a Christian, but deep inside there was a determination to never let himself be hurt again. If there was ever a hint that someone was not treating him with respect he would explode with angry words. It would soon be obvious that he regretted those words, but he could not bring himself to say “I’m sorry.”

Such people have a fear that they will somehow diminish themselves if they admit to having done something wrong. Doesn’t our respect for that person become less and less the more we observe his or her explosions? It takes a big person to admit he or she has done wrong and say “I’m sorry.”

The brother I mentioned was causing himself as much hurt as anyone else had ever done. He really was a soft-hearted man who cared deeply about other people. However, his explosive temper made it difficult to maintain lasting relationships. He lived on a roller coaster of emotions. After an outburst he would not want to face the other person for a time. Eventually the feeling of shame would fade and he would again be able to visit as if nothing had happened.

My father would explode in anger whenever something went wrong. I don’t think anyone outside the immediate family knew about this side of him. I followed my father’s example and like him it was those I loved most who were exposed to my outbursts.

I repented often of my anger, but found that prayer alone did not really change anything. There was something I had to do, and that was to go to the one I had hurt and say “I’m sorry.” There was a power in saying those words, and meaning them, which began to act as a brake on my impulses to lash out.

A sincere apology does not diminish our respect for the one who apologizes. We all know he has blown his cool and appreciate it when he admits his fault and tries to make amends. The person who can humbly and forthrightly deal with his mistakes becomes a much bigger person in our eyes than the one who has never admitted making a mistake.

Someone once asked me about a visitor with whom I was acquainted. I told everything I knew. Later that day I felt I needed to go back and say that I believed I had spoken the truth, but most of what I said should have been left unsaid. Gossip can be just as hurtful as anger.

James 5:16 tells us to confess our faults one to another. This does not mean that we should make a point of confessing every little slip of the tongue if no malice was intended and no harm done. Nor do we need to invent something to confess; most of us don’t need to do that, anyway. A heartfelt apology is a soothing balm, healing wounds and deepening our relationships.

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