Where to find me online

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Kids and divorce

People in a pastoral role are often asked if a divorce will hurt or help the kids.

Our culture has so indulged itself in lies about relationships and life that even those who genuinely put forth a concerted effort are destined to fail. Nonetheless, I say the only appropriate cause of divorce is when a spouse is abusive or controlling. Life works out the way it works out. It is not always fair and often arbitrary and random. And that is NOT bad news.

Our responsibility, if we accept it, is to become the sort of people we can become who effectively respond to the circumstances we find ourselves in. An effective response means changing circumstances when possible with decisions that properly belong to us but it also means accepting the circumstances when THEY do not change and yet we still need to have an effective response within the circumstances even if others refuse to change. But too often we refuse to accept life the way it is. We would rather complain about how IT is unfair or how OTHERS are not doing what they are supposed to do.

People put forth so much wasted effort trying to become the kind of people they would like to be as they hope to avoid too many obstacles but they put forth little to no effort becoming the people required by the circumstances and the real obstacles that are not going away. For example, many parents adopt a style of parenting that makes sense to them -- a style they like and can believe in -- a style they imagine to be biblical or recommended by a respected psychologist. How foolish and self centered is that!

Parenting is not about YOU, its not about being biblical, its not about "correct methods," its about who you AND the kids are and who you as a parent need to become in light of that. We need to be the sort of parents that are effective in a way that meets our kids needs and does not indulge them with what they do not need. All  kids need certain consequences -- some more than others, all need discipline -- some more than others, graciousness, encouragement, mercy, justice. Balance is required. If it is out of balance your kids are either indulged or abused. A good parent is willing to master a wide array of skills incorporating a wider variety of management methods than they personally enjoy or like. When you parent your child, your responsibility is to use the method that achieves balance, not the method you prefer or that others approve. It requires openness to see if this is really working for the kids. When it is not working, do not complain about incorrigible kids, switch to a different method - say one that is effective with incorrigible kids.

I want to be a nice guy, but some people take advantage of nice guys. So I am prepared to be an advantage takers worst enemy and be not at all nice. In so doing I might behave in ways even I dislike if that is the way of behaving that can effectively stop the advantage taker in their path from violating my boundaries. Truth is there have been a few times when my daughter or my wife discovered I can be difficult deliberately and intentionally. And I am not deterred if that creates an impression of me they do not like. Being liked is an indulgence for those whose boundaries are insecure.

Similarly, do you feel your spouse does not appreciate you? Well then, you need to become the kind of person who is learning how to effectively win the appreciation of a person who does not give appreciation easily. If you can learn to do that, you will grow in wisdom and strength as a person. You might also need to learn how to effectively call out that lack of appreciation in a way that is experienced as empathetic and healing to whatever scars keep them from being appreciative. An unappreciative spouse could prove to be a great gift in your growth. The required effort might throw a monkey wrench in your plans. So be it.

Do you feel your spouse is unattractive or uninspiring? What a marvelous opportunity to discover what it is that makes every person precious and lovely to the core. You may even discover that by shallow standards, those who feel they are genuinely regarded as truly precious actually become far more attractive and involved.

Most importantly, lets not kid ourselves. None of us are easy to live with. If our kids and our spouse are the sort of people seeking ways of being effective with us, we will need to embrace a number of faults in ourselves they do not appreciate. If we have modeled effective behavior we have also armed those around us with the means of effectively confronting us.

Life is an opportunity, not to pursue YOUR dreams, but to respond to life as it is. The sort of expertise that emerges with that attitude will be highly valuable to you and others because it gives us the skills we really need, not just the skills we admire. It will create a you and an us that is so genuine to who and what we actually are.

Statistically kids are better off without having to deal with parents who cannot find a way of successfully embracing their reality. The main reason is that a failed marriage models foolish and ineffective ways of responding to life and ways of adopting acceptable excuses for blaming others rather than accepting responsibility to be the only difference your circumstances really require. That is how it hurts the kids, it becomes their normal.

Learning to be content in any circumstance is not a form of spiritual lobotomy or Buddhist like detachment where you don't care what the circumstances are. It is instead a deep engagement and embracing of reality meeting it head on and accepting the challenge in the confidence that God is with you and you are thereby sufficient to any circumstance so that you really have nothing to complain about -- merely a number of opportunities you had not anticipated.

No comments:

Post a Comment