Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: emotions

A new course in life

If you’ve followed me this far you have no doubt gathered that I wasn’t a romantic kind of guy. I had strong emotional feelings, but I woud have been horribly embarrassed if anyone got a glimpse of them. Circumstances told to me that now I needed to do something to let my bride-to-be know how I felt about her.

So I sat down and wrote my very first love letter. I quoted some lines from a song by the Bee Gees that was popular at the time: “It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away,” and tried to put my feelings into words. I don’t remember writing any more letters, mostly we talked. That meant collect phone calls from Chris to me. I didn’t call her, since her uncle would have answered the phone and that wasn’t what I wanted.

As for the suspicions that some farmers may have harboured, it seemed best to me to just carry on without saying anything more. I had done nothing wrong and I had been careful not to accuse the former manager of wrongdoing. That proved to be the right course of action, as everything went well from then on.

It took several months for it to dawn on me that something had changed in my life. I was no longer turned off by Christian radio broadcasts, there were a couple that I began to listen to regularly. I bought some Christian books. I read more about Mennonite history.

I had always considered the “born again” thing to be a sham. The people I had known who claimed to be born again were no more honest than anyone else. They boasted of a elationship with God, but their attitude of superiority towards other people was not attractive. Now my life had taken a turn, and it had happened at the time I prayed for forgiveness. Was that change what Jesus meant by being born again? I concluded it was.

At that time grain elevators often shut down for the first two weeks of August. The managers would take their vacation and return refreshed to start receiving deliveries for the new crop that would be harvested after mid-August. Chris and I set Saturday, August 1, 1970 for our wedding date and began planning.

Where were we going to get married? What minister would we ask? Neither of us had any church affiliation, I was a lapsed Anglican. Chris’s family was one that said, “If anyone asks, say we belong to the United Church,” but they never actually attended that or any other church.

It happened that Reverend Ken Vickers was now the minister at Saint Barnabas Anglican church in Moose Jaw where my parents attended. Mom asked him and he said he would be happy to do the honours. I was happy to see him again.  We had a counselling session or two with him to help us grasp the importance of the step we were about to take.

Chris has an older brother and four younger sisters, they all lived with their parents. Chris had been with her aunt and uncle ever since a health scare in early childhood caused by neglect. By this time I had met her brother and two of her sisters, but not her parents. Since Chris was only 17, her real father was going to have to give his permission for her to marry. Chris approached him with some trepidation, but he signed.

I asked Joe Zagozeski to be my best man and Chris asked her friend Sandy Carson to be bridesmaid. We were all set, all we needed to do now was get to the church on time.

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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.

Self-esteem versus reality

I think of this topic every time I look for a birthday card for one of my grandchildren.  It is difficult to find a suitable card, most are full of language stoking the little darling’s self-esteem.  I would rather choose a goofy card than one that tells them how special, unique and wonderful they are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a typical grandpa and think all my grandchildren are wonderful.  But I am fearful of filling them with self-important ideas that will be a stumbling block later in life when they go to work for someone who is not their grandpa.

An experiment was conducted some years ago with a group of school children.  They were divided into two groups and given a simple math quiz.  After the quiz, one group was told “You are very smart.”  The second group was told “You worked very hard.”  Then both groups were given a more difficult quiz to complete.  The ones who had been told how smart they were appeared to freeze when they encountered a difficult problem, afraid to reveal that they weren’t so smart after all.  The ones who had been told how hard they had worked simply went to work and tried to solve all the problems.  They scored much higher than the “smart” group.

This experiment reveals the snare I see lurking behind the emphasis on building children’s self-esteem.  Writers of books for children today are told that the children must be shown to be solving their problems and conflicts without the help of an adult.  We are raising children today who recognise no authority other than themselves.  Most psychologists seem to think this will lead to a generation of clear-thinking, resourceful adults.  The evidence so far shows this great social engineering experiment to be a disaster.

Children raised in this way are singularly ill-equipped to deal with failure.  Yet failure is a part of every person’s life and prepares us for success.  If a child cannot admit having made a mistake, he cannot learn from that mistake.  When a child cannot be corrected or see the lesson to be learned from her mistakes, she cannot learn.

Adaptability is essential to growing up.  When a child cannot accept that there are consequences to her misbehaviour, she cannot adapt and become more mature.  When she cannot accept having mistakes in her school work marked with a red x, how can she correct the mistake and learn?

A further complication is that our self-esteem culture does not favour the development of good parent-child relationships or teacher-student relationships.  Rather than empowering our children, the self-esteem culture is leaving them hurting, defensive, unable to really identify and acknowledge their feelings, or to find any healing for their hurts.

The self-esteem culture arises from a rebellion against the teaching of the Bible that we are sinful beings.  Yet, when one accepts this fact, there opens up a new panorama of ways to build healthy human relationships.  We are told to love our neighbour as ourselves, to esteem others as better than ourselves.  As counter-intuitive as this may seem in today’s society, this is actually the way to happiness and fulfilment.  Meditating on how wonderfully special and smart we are has never brought happiness.

That kind of thinking doesn’t earn respect either.  A child needs to know that the grounds for being respected are laid when he conducts himself in a respectable manner and is respectful to others.

Correcting a child will not leave him emotionally scarred for life.  Leaving a child uncorrected is apt to make him an emotional cripple when he has to face the real world.

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