February 15, 1994
When I was in grade nine, a classmate passed me a note. She was a beautiful girl with a model’s shape, popular with everyone, and dated whatever boys she pleased. She had nice clothes, money, and freedom to go wherever she wanted. Everyone envied her, including me.
The note said, “I envy you and your sister... My parents don’t love me enough to correct me.”
She shook me to the bottom of my prejudices. I thought love was being spoiled and pampered. She thought anyone who doesn’t care whether or not we are on the wrong track does not love us.
That was many years ago. Today, social sciences and current thinking comes down hard on child discipline. Specialists cannot conceive of a spanking being anything more than abuse (many times it is, but it doesn’t have to be) and children are picking up the same attitude. What a tragedy, particularly from the child’s perspective.
Discipline can be given in love, not anger, if the focus is on the needs of the person being disciplined. Is it good for them to continue in whatever they are doing without correction? Will they hurt themselves or other people? Will they have a false idea of what is acceptable social behavior? Will they develop rude, immoral, illegal, or violent habits? What will this behavior look like in them when they are five, ten, or twenty years older?
Answering those questions is far different than popping off at a child who is annoying, or an embarrassment, or simply in the way. Those who verbally or physically expresses how they feel about someone’s behavior are not fooling anyone, least of all the recipient, into thinking they are doing it in love. Even a small child can tell the difference between angry, self-serving correction and stern, but loving concern for their growth as persons.
Besides saying “I love you enough to stop you,” discipline provides boundaries and a sense of security. In many cases, even adults feel more comfortable with knowing their limits.
Of course there are many forms of discipline. Again, as adults who are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that sometimes the only way we learn is through pain.
Perhaps that is the greatest reason I appreciate that note. The Bible talks about God loving me enough to correct me but when I first experienced that correction, I was very upset. How could God “spank” His children? I wanted to run and hide.
Then I found Hebrews 12: “Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and he punishes everyone He accepts as a son (or daughter).... Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
God’s discipline is not an expression of His anger; my failures do not annoy Him. He cares about me so uses whatever is necessary to help me change and become a better person.
While an earthly parent can dish out harsh, unloving physical abuse that results in their child never feeling comfortable with the concept of God as Father, the opposite response can be just as devastating. No discipline at all can also make a person think that no one cares, God included.