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Emotional Bullying: Using Guilt to Lead Kids to God

guiltI was talking to a friend who, although raised in the church, is pretty antagonistic toward Christianity. He was talking about his childhood and how Sunday school and VBS constantly beat into his head his personal responsibility for Christ’s death.

Not in the “Christ died for your sins” vein, but more like, “It was your sins that drove the spikes into Jesus’ hands and feet.” The way his parents and church hammered (no pun intended) into him his personal responsiblity, made him feel mortifying shame.

It worked, he was a devout little kid. But he wasn’t propelled out of a sense of gratitude or wonder. No—his driving motivation for being good was humiliation.

As he got older, he walked away from the whole thing. I know so many people who have had the same experience. When they get older, their guilt turns into anger and frustration.

I ‘d seen the same things laid on kids in churches I’ve attended, and it breaks my heart. To a little kid, there’s a huge difference between “Christ died for our sins” and “your sins made Christ die.” It may be subtle, but it’s there.

Have others experienced this?

So I asked on Twitter if others had this same experience growing up:

Here’s some of the responses:

This last one really resonated with me. I can’t count the times I was told that people were going to look at me during judgment and mouth the words, “Why didn’t you tell me!?” as they were led to their eternal torment. Great, I have to spend eternity with that on my conscience?

Guilt’s not a great motivational tool

I get why it’s so easy to use guilt—especially on children. They’re so tender and making them feel guilty tends to make them respond immediately. But in the end, it may do your cause more harm than good.

It’s similar to the way parents use overpowering fear and intimidation to get immediate obedience out of a child even though they’re creating relational difficulties that will come to fruition later.

When children get older and are capable of deeper reflection, they start to resent the guilt that was used to motivate them. They start being distrustful and leery of emotional controlled.

We need to be mindful of how we communicate these profound truths to children (and, let’s be honest, adults too). The emotional implications for some of the extremely dramatic language, imagery, and metaphors we use can be damaging.

Jesus simply said, “Let the little children come unto me.” Not, “Compel them to come unto me by making sure they understand what bad little children they are.”

I’d love to hear your story. Did your parents/church introduce you to Christ in an organic, healthy way? Did you spend a lot of your childhood feeling guilty? Do you agree or disagree that guilt is not the best tool for religious instruction?

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4 Stupid Substitutes for Humility

humblebragWhen Ben Franklin turned 20, he was determined to become virtuous. He put together a list of 12 virtues (frugality, sincerity, justice, etc.), and worked out a system of regularly focusing on one virtue a week while tracking his progress as he went.

He showed his finished list of values to a minister who pointed out that Franklin was missing humility—the queen of all virtues. Ben added it to the list bringing the total to 13.

After spending many months working on the virtues, Franklin’s friend asked how he was doing with humility. Franklin responded, “I can’t boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it.”

If you’re acting humble, you’re not

Virtues are a lot like garments; you can put them on on without owning them. It’s tricky because we don’t just fool the people around us by playing dress up—we fool ourselves.

Humility’s much easier to manufacture than it is to internalize, and as long as we’re more focused on humility’s appearance, we’ll never experience its transformation. Continue reading

The Cross Isn’t a Brand—It’s a Mission Statement

duckdynastyConstantine was certain that God had come to him in a dream. The first “Christian” roman empire had looked up at the sun and witnessed a cross-like apparition along with the words, “ἐν τούτῳ νίκα” (In this, conquer).

Unsure of the meaning of this vision, Constantine went to sleep a couple nights later to be met by Christ who explained to him that he must use the sign of the cross against his enemies.

History tells us that Constantine marched into the Battle of the Milvian Bridge as a conqueror under the banner of the cross. Because obviously, when a warrior people hear they should use something against their enemies—it must be to vanquish them. Continue reading

Ask Jayson: Finding the Good in Terrible People

typekeysDear Jayson,

I need some insight and help regarding Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Can you describe the meaning of each word . . . ie . . . true, honorable, just . . . and how to daily put this verse to work.

This passage truly messes me up. What if someone has done many abusive things to you, or grossly lied about you, or hurt someone you love? It’s true they are a bad person. Its true they are toxic. Yet . . . what else. Noble? Praise worthy? Not sure how to correctly put this verse to work. Seeking because I want its promise.

Peace,
Perplexed Continue reading

Overcoming the Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony

Pie_eating_contest_Taking gluttony seriously is more than simply wringing our hands about the Western obesity epidemic.

Although the idea of gluttony is often tied to food, it’s much, much bigger. Simply put, gluttony is the act of taking something acceptable, useful, or even necessary and indulging in it in an unhealthy manner.

With this in mind, gluttony includes, but is not limited to, things like: Continue reading

4 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Joke on Social Media

DislikeIf social media’s taught me anything, it’s that many well-meaning people have a sort of super power when it comes to ruining jokes.

When I’m not filling the internet with writings about spirituality and music, I’m telling jokes on Facebook and Twitter. After having thousands of great jokes destroyed within a couple comments, I’ve learned a few things I’d love to pass on to you.

Here are 4 ways to ruin someone else’s perfectly good joke on social media. Continue reading

Ask Jayson: How Do I Share My Trials in a Healthy Way?

underwoodDear Jayson,

My husband was recently diagnosed with cancer and we’re going through a lot right now. Suddenly, a question as simple as, “how are you” is an enormous challenge. Most ask how we’re doing with concern and sincerity but socially it’s awkward to know just how much they want—and how much I’ll feel like sharing. Any advice?

Overwhelmed Continue reading

Overcoming the Seven Deadly Sins: Envy

golum1Samuel Beckett, the famed Irish novelist and author of Waiting for Godot, married his long-time companion Suzanne in 1961. As his fame continued to grow, she was consumed with jealousy and their marriage weakened.

One day in 1969 she answered their ringing phone, spoke to the person on the other end, and hung up. Turning a pallid face to her husband, she mumbled, “Quel catastrophe. . .” (What a catastraphe) She’d just been told that the Swedish Academy had awarded Samuel the Nobel Prize for literature.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”—Romans 12:15

Continue reading

Get off the Assembly Line and into the Wilderness

freedomsculpturegIt’s a challenge of Christian spirituality to desire the intangible over the physical. Longing for an invisible Christ is hard to even wrap our minds around, especially when we compare it to more obvious concerns. This is even more difficult in our post-enlightenment culture that is suspect of anything that’s not concrete.

Rather than learning to embrace the mysteries of Christian spirituality, we resort to a faith that’s either mimicked or prescribed. To copy someone else’s behavior or submit to their direction, for Christ’s sake, has some sense of observable reality to it. Continue reading

Ask Jayson: Dealing with Judgmental Christian Parents

underwoodDear Jayson,

How do I get my extreme Christian parents to see that their views of the world are antiquated and no longer functional? They’re super judgmental and difficult to be around at times. I love my parents. I just want to see them love the world and people around them more. Background: I’m not Christian so they don’t value my opinion a lot of times.

Thank you,
Frustrated Continue reading

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