Monday, November 3, 2014

Others Centered Hearts in a Self-Obsessed Culture

Recently I had a very bad day.  So bad in fact, that by lunchtime I was literally sobbing as my children sat near and watched.  I'm talking the kind of crying where you can barely catch your breath.  You should know that this isn't something that happens frequently.  I don't think my kids have ever seen me cry so desperately. 

Yet, their response was selfish and inconsiderate.  As I'm crying my boys very frankly (and coldly) ask, "When are we going to eat lunch?"  There was no, "Mom, are you okay?"  Or, "I'm sorry your sad."  They didn't draw near to give me a hug.  There wasn't one iota of consideration for me.

In the moment, I was so angry with them.  So as to not explode on them in anger, I simply asked them to give me space and leave the room.  As time went on and I thought about their response to my sadness, I became greatly disturbed.

I began to ask myself, "Where have I failed that my children could be so cold and selfish to me in a moment of great sadness?  Have I taught them this through my own behavior?"

For me, this life event has spiraled into a deep longing for God to break through and change the selfish hearts of my kids.  I have been praying and asking for wisdom on how to raise kids with others centered hearts in our self-obsessed culture.   

The dictionary defines self-obsessed in this way:  The act of being constantly preoccupied with the thought of yourself and everything in this world that involves you or should involve you. 

I look at my children and pray that they won't live self-obsessed lives. 

I look at myself and pray that I won't live a self-obsessed life.

The saving grace is that God was and is wise to our self-obsessed nature.  Hence the reason He sent Jesus to demonstrate a perfectly others centered heart. 

Jesus taught in Luke 6:31 to "Do to others as you would have them do to you."  Ironically, our self-obsessed nature knows exactly how we want to be treated.  God knew and knows this, which is why He chose to articulate His command in this way.

Jesus also calls each of us to "love others as well as you love yourself." Mark 12:31

Teaching our children to treat others the way they want to be treated and to love others the way they want to be loved is a tough job.  Especially in our self-obsessed culture where our children are taught to "Do what's best for you" and to "Think of yourself first." 

However, as I've prayed and reflected on this I've been encouraged to start simple.  The idea being that if they learn to think of others in small ways, they will begin to think of others in more substantial ways.

I believe that God has shown me that a simple start to teaching our children Jesus' commands is to teach and train them to be considerate in small ways.  A considerate individual thinks of others and considers how his/her words and behaviors affect others.

For example, below is a short list of small ways my children are regularly inconsiderate (and ultimately, self-obsessed):

Pooping in the toilet and leaving it there for all to see.
Running sticky, filthy hands all over the wall as they walk upstairs to wash them.
Leaving blue crusted toothpaste splat all over the bathroom sink.
Dripping pee tinkles on the toilet seat and floor with no thought to cleaning it up.
Tossing clothes to and fro while changing.
Wiping their snot on anything and everything besides a Kleenex.
Shoving by people (like their sister or a sweet old woman) on their way to get to where they apparently really need to go.
Handing me (aka The Trashcan) their trash.
Talking while someone else is talking.

In the past my response to one of these inconsiderate behaviors sometimes included a sarcastic and exasperated remark like: 

"Really?"
"Again?  You've got to be kidding me."  Sigh.
"Are you seriously doing that?" or "Did you seriously just do that?"

But lately, I've sought to be wiser in how I respond.  I want them to understand how their behaviors are affecting others.  So I've started responding with one of the following questions: 

"When you do that, who are you thinking of?"
or
"When you do that, who are you loving?"

You see, I don't mean to patronize or belittle my kids.  And I understand that some of these inconsiderate behaviors are the result of immaturity.  But they are nonetheless, selfish.  So I need them to see how their self-obsessed nature is motivating inconsiderate behavior in small ways.  And I need them to see that when they behave inconsiderately in those small ways, they aren't treating and loving others as they want to be treated and loved. 

Ultimately, a shift from a self-obsessed heart to an others centered heart can only be accomplished by the Spirit's power...sifting and refining them from the inside out.  So I understand that my teaching and training is limited. 

However, I am reminded that God instructs us to train up our children under His Word:  "Teach them (God's commands) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 11:19

So, I'll start in small ways and pray that the Spirit will transform their hearts in a big way.

Let's pray friends! 

Jesus,
By Your Spirit, will you transform my children's self-obsessed hearts to hearts that are others centered.  I pray they would love others as well as they love themselves.  I pray they would treat others with the consideration, respect, and love that they want to be treated with.  When people around them are hurting or in need, may they see them and love them with Your heart and with actions that imitate Your character and will.  And Lord, give me wisdom as I teach them Your commands about being others centered, even in small ways.  Grant me patience and endurance to be faithful to teach them Your ways wherever we are and in whatever we are doing.