Last month I looked at several lessons on “What if the devil is real?” This lesson falls in line with those as it considers if the devil is real, how would he mess up families? Before I get to the list, something I should point out is the devil is all about extremes. He wants people to feel too much guilt or none at all. He wants people to feel too much fear or none at all. In the middle we have the appropriate amount of guilt and the appropriate amount of fear. All of our emotions (e.g. anger, sadness, fear, guilt, happiness, jealousy, etc.) are a gift, but they’re all meant to be kept in check. Some people really hate certain emotions, but without any of them, we are emotionally handicapped in some way. We need to experience all of the emotions at some point or another. If one starts to dominate, however, we get in trouble. As one person taught me, emotions are meant to be like guests to your house; you let them in and then you let them leave… or you make them. We need to keep them from overstaying their welcome.
Whether you believe it’s the devil that is actively trying to mess you up or if it’s just the negative part of your brain is up to you we have something that pushes us to think and do dumb things. I believe the devil drops ideas in our heads and then our negative brain takes it for a ride. He’s subtle. He’s not tying me to a chair and using sleep deprivation and flashing images for brainwashing. He drops ideas that are twisted truths but believable enough and then our brains do the rest to screw us up. Sometimes he doesn’t even have to bother dropping an idea because we’ve trained our brains to think these terrible things on its own like we think the person who’s late is dead in a ditch or someone wasn’t friendly because they suddenly hate us. We get in routines of thinking certain ways, which is why changing how we think is so hard. We have to break what it’s used to doing.
There’s also a chance the devil does bigger things than drop an idea. For instance, after I posted the lesson with 12 ways the devil can mess with us individually and I shared that he uses discouragement against me, I’ve had a brutal month. Besides having the worst cold I’ve ever had that took two weeks to get over, it transitioned to the flu for two days, and then immediately I had another bug that kept me from eating for four more days (yea, that was six days without eating cookies! I’m not sure how I survived). Then I had to put my five year old cat down and then a week later our other younger cat (she was an outdoor cat), disappeared, which means someone either stole her or a dog ate her. Add in both my kids being sick with various things including lots of throw up and hand, foot, and mouth disease, my youngest also needed to go to the ER because of cutting her foot open where she naturally picked up another bug she brought home. Add in some work issues, having to fire a contractor, and having issues getting my new books published (hopefully they’ll be done for next week) and November was more discouraging than a month I can remember. It was either one crazy coincidence or the devil was like “You know what I do to you, so let’s amp it up for ya.” Whatever the reason, the best thing I can do is continue making the best decisions I can and arrange things to hopefully have a better December.
As far as messing up families, here are 12 ways families are being damaged today:
- The End Not the Journey: We’ve forgotten that how kids turn out is more important than the actual journey to get them to adulthood. We often get stuck in the moment, but it’s easier not to panic when we consider the bigger picture.
- Not Disappointing our Kids: I hate disappointing my kids, but I have to remind myself this is an important experience for them for developing character and coping abilities. We need to feel pain to strengthen our character and develop a thicker skin just like we need pain to grow muscle.
- Overly Fixing & Accommodating: A major problem for parents is we naturally want to fix things for our children, but we need to back off and let them develop independence and learn to fight their own battles. As they say in Al-Anon, “Don’t do for someone what they can do themselves.” Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to make your kids do their own laundry or make their own lunches, but they need to doing their part to help the household function better. If you’re part of a family, act like you’re part of the family.
- Survival Mode: Creating impossible expectation for themselves, a lot of parents end up in survival mode and have little patience and kindness left for each other or themselves. They’re running themselves ragged trying to do more than they should.
- Destroy the Power of Sex: What amazes me is I keep meeting married couples with kids who have sex once a month or once a year… if that. Sex is a gift from God to keep couples connected. It’s something we need to be regularly doing, but when kids are born it often gets put on the backburner when it needs to be a regular part of a weekly schedule. What’s weird is at the same time, our culture is obsessed with sex even though it’s like food – when you’re hungry food is amazing. When you’re full – ehn. One of the worst things our culture does is it encourages young people to have sex too young, so by the time they’re married sex is old hat. It may sound lame, but saving sex until marriage makes it more exciting for a couple… even if it’s for a year or so. On one hand, sex is a special gift that should be shared with one person and on the other, it’s just sex.
- Losing the United Front: Because of being in survival mode or simply because of different expectations, a lot of parents aren’t working together to raise their kids. A healthy family includes two parents who each do their own role well and appreciates what the other does. If you can’t, you need to adjust the roles or have a better idea of what the other is doing.
- Weak and/or Lazy Dads. I find a lot of dads are too weak with their kids and have no authority and/or they have no backbone for dealing with their wife. Whether it’s a fear of criticism or being yelled at or given the eye roll/sneer, a lot of dads are hiding. That might be why a lot of dads waste hours and hours drinking, smoking pot, and/or playing video games or maybe it’s just laziness and a lack of growing up. Men really need to return to being the “head of the house,” which means offering an equal partner to the wife who is the “heart of the house.” The head isn’t superior, but it’s meant to be more engaged than the butt, which is what a lot of men are being.
- Mama Bear is Out of Control: Women have a natural mama bear side, but it’s been running rampant as they’re burning themselves out and often attacking their husbands for not keeping up with their crazy expectations and lifestyles and/or they prevent their husbands from disciplining the kids. Sometimes women take on too much because the husband isn’t helping and other times they won’t let the guy help because he “can’t do it right” (aka he doesn’t do it her way). Either way, we need healthier expectations and moms to be fair to themselves and their partners.
- Money & Career Focus: United families no longer seem to be the goal; it’s more about the parents having money and the perfect career. I once met a family who dropped their kids off at before school care and then had arrangements for childcare until they got home at seven at night just in time to put the kids to bed. Is that a family or a bedtime supervisor? If you’re a family, you need to spend time with each other to build connection; we need to be doing the day to day and not just weekends and holidays. Instead of growing a family, a lot of parents work to pay for things they want, but being a parent is about sacrifice and teaching your kids we don’t get everything we want. We need to teach kids love and spending time together is more important than having stuff and vacations.
- Lack of Discipline: I don’t know when the idea of disciplining your kids became bad, but a lot of people treat discipline like abuse – it’s not. Disciplining your kids guides them to how to behave better and helps them learn how to handle upsetting people.
- Phone Addiction: How many parents role model using a phone as a coping mechanism or that a phone is more important than the person in front of you? How many parents pass their phone or tablet to entertain their kids and then wonder why the kids are addicted to technology when they’re older and/or they wonder why the kids don’t engage in family time because they’d rather be on their phone? Phones are a blessing, but they can be a curse.
- Losing Church: This may seem like a strange thing to include, but I grew up where every Sunday morning (and night for awhile), my family all went to church together. I wasn’t excited to do this as a kid, but I’m grateful for it now. It gave us a reason to be with each other. It gave us something in common as we knew similar people and learned common lessons we could discuss later. It gave us community and offered more opportunities to be involved together as a family like kids’ Christmas shows and events like Sunday school picnics. Stop going to church and there’s a major connection point being taken away from families.
Ultimately as parents our goal should include teaching our kids a strong work ethic, a sense of responsibility, an appreciation for right and wrong, how to handle trials, how to handle money, and to care about family – family is more important than the individual’s needs.
This week may you consider how you can improve your family (even if that means you as a couple make more of an effort to have sex).
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)