Discipline, Lenten style — or, what I want to teach my kids

Ordinarily, I make it a point not to discuss my penitential practices during Lent; however, given yesterday’s controversy, it seems appropriate to share one of the disciplines I am attempting to practice during this season of reflection and repentance.

Instead of giving up something easy and relatively meaningless like chocolate or coffee for Lent, I chose to give up snappy comebacks and questioning the motives of others.  I struggle mightily and daily with the temptation to respond to the least provocation with an acidly unkind rejoinder, and to regard offers of help as criticism or rebukes.

Our children look to their parents as examples in all things, and since I am the parent with whom they spend most of their waking hours, they hear and see my responses to just about everything.  There is nothing quite so convicting as hearing my own unpleasantness coming from the mouths of my preschoolers, to hear my questioning of others’ real intentions, and realizing that along with spelling and skip counting, this is something they are learning from me.

Regular readers of this blog are, I’m sure, aware that my husband and I are striving to raise children who are good, kind, loving, and wise.  While there are times when it is appropriate to ask what lies beneath the surface, as students of Greek history can readily attest, it serves none of our goals to raise children who respond to criticism or correction with a biting comment, or who fail to recognize that the more discomfort a comment causes, the more likely it is that some self-examination is in order.

Scrutinizing the motives of a person who offers an observation, criticism, or piece of advice is, in my case, usually a highly uncharitable act.  The Lord Himself commanded us to help one another.  I have no way of knowing who He will send to my aid, and sometimes, He realizes that I need assistance before I do, and the person offering help or guidance is His messenger.  Instead of speculating upon another’s motive for offering help and advice, it is fruitful for me to consider my reasons for refusing it.  Am I refusing the offer because I genuinely have no need, or am I committing an act of pride, wrath, or envy with my refusal?

This is also an exercise in humility for me, an area in which I need to set a proper example for the tribe as well.   The Lord has blessed me richly in many ways, and because of the abundance of His gifts, I often fall into the trap of thinking that I need support from no one else to have a happy and Christian life.  That thought emanates straight from Hell itself, and will certainly lead me there if I indulge it for long.  If the Lord has seen fit to bless me with friends, family, and other interlocutors, I am showing a poor appreciation for His bounty if I roughly shove them aside when they say something that hits a little too close to one of my human frailties.

Sorry, no cute stories today; however, I would like to ask that if you shared a link to the St. Patrick’s Day post, please share a link to this one as well.  I would also appreciate any re-blogs the WordPress family would care to grant; this post matters more than most to me.  I’d also like to invite you to join me in my discipline for the remaining two weeks of Lent, and beyond, whether or not you believe in the Resurrection.  A gentler world has to start somewhere.

And please, if anyone knows the commenter who posted as “Joan,” would you kindly make sure she sees this?

Today’s prayer:  Lord, help us to be gentle with one another. Help us accept Your generous gifts without suspicion or fear.  Your Son was regarded with both during his time here, to the detriment of many.  I would teach Your blessings that discomfort caused by the words of another should cause them to reflect on Your instructions to us more than the motives of the utterer.  Please,  Lord, grant me a heart that takes neither pleasure nor pride in delivering insults and humiliations.  Grant me the grace that I would teach Your blessings — to please You by using Your gifts to foster love, not its opposite.

Postscript:  I’d like to tip my hat to Lori Schulz, who quoted Ephesians 4:29 in her post today:   “No foul word should ever cross your lips; let your words be for the improvement of others, as occasion offers, and do good to your listeners;”


3 thoughts on “Discipline, Lenten style — or, what I want to teach my kids

  1. I’m so glad you didn’t try to read any thing less than sincerity into my comments, Kelly, because there simply wasn’t anything else there. I think your points on being prideful and wanting to refuse criticism, be it constructive or otherwise, as opposed to thinking that possibly that criticism is a prod or statement from God, are well made. Something perhaps we all could look at on a personal level instead of immediately passing judgement and then chiding someone for the exact same thing, you know?

    I was kind of shocked at how many of your readers were quick to engage in the un-Christian-like behavior of calling me names (troll, Martha Stewart), and dismissing me as judgmental, although I can appreciate their motive was out of righteous indignation over what they saw as an attack on someone they admire. Perhaps some of them felt sickened by their lack of strength in those moments of irritation and that your post above has been inspiring to them in that regard.

    Our Father’s laws, principles, wishes for families, marriages, children were written thousands of years ago, and they apply to us now, just as they did in 1950, just as they did in 1850, and all the years before that. There is no difference in His expectations for us in 2012 in our roles as wives, mothers, husbands, children than when He first laid them out for us. He wouldn’t us to become complacent and slothful in our observance of his commands, regardless the year.

    Anyway. All that’s behind us now. Love the picture your children colored. I’m curious, do you live in an area consisting of primarily Caucasian population? I know we do, and it can be a difficult thing to introduce children to acceptance of all races as God’s children, you know?

  2. Thank you, Joan, for your patience and kindnes, and for coming back to read this post. We do try to live according to the Lord’s timeless and perfect principles, and when I fall short, I’m grateful for those who offer gentle correction. It strengthens my faith to know that you cared enough about my family and I, although we have never met (as far as I know), to offer your guidance and persevere in doing so, even when on the receiving end of some uncharitable commentary. My husband and I had a discussion about the organization problem in the kitchen, and think we’ve hit upon a solution that will keep the necessaries close to hand, but eliminate the piles of paper. Small bookcases and plastic storage boxes are less expensive than we had feared. Also, I must confess that I smilingly thought of you when I picked up two new bathmats at Ollie’s the other night. Little things like that do get away from me sometimes.

    The picture is actually from one of Bugaboo’s pre-k schoolbooks, “God’s Rules For Me,” published by Seton Educational Media. It’s a terrific introduction to the commandments for young children. Neither our area nor the children’s circle of friends are overwhelmingly Caucasian, but if there is a picture of two girls and two boys, you can bet they’ll look like Bugaboo and her siblings, none of whose hair color can yet be determined (I do believe it changes weekly). She’s equally likely to color skin brown, tan, pink, peach, or blue; actually, when the peepers are singing in the nearby swamp, it’s a safe bet that she’ll color all of her people green that day.

    Peace be with you, Joan. You have both my gratitude and my prayers.


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