“He who tells his story first makes people think he is right, until the other comes to test him.” Proverbs 18:17
I love my children more than life itself, but when they fight and argue with each other, I want to stick a giant fork in my eye. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve shot daggers with my eyes and said, “Don’t. Say. Another. Word,” or threatened them within an inch of their lives if they continued to be ugly to one another. I’ve been confronted with all forms of tattling: “Mom, Abby won’t share!” or “Emma’s being mean!” or “Ivey won’t leave me alone!” or “Noah just flicked me on the head!” or “John Lee is being annoying!” The girls especially can get pretty feisty, and it’s not at all uncommon for any one of them to shove, swat at, or kick each other. Lee and I both have a no-tolerance policy on hitting, so whenever I become aware of such behavior, it warrants a swift reprimand. The W5 know that if they get called out for that, it’s big trouble, and because of that, they blame each other for their behavior. I prepare myself for all of the tears, explanations, and promises to never do whatever it is again.
I do make real efforts to understand each child and see things from their perspective. It doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but it does help me relate to them a little better. Of course, there are times when my efforts aren’t quite enough, and if emotions are high, I jump to a wrong conclusion. If Abby comes to me in tears to tell me that Emma pushed her, that usually makes me so mad that I immediately take Emma’s phone away and send her to her room. Reactionary moments like that-and there are more than I care to admit-clearly prevent me from hearing the other side of the story. It’s after one kid has been punished that I learn what happened to elicit a push from the other. And not surprisingly, I often end up concluding that I would’ve done the same thing!
These are some of the minor challenges of parenting, but I think they represent a tendency we all have to take sides. We watch these huge murder trials on CNN and decide who’s guilty and who’s innocent just by reading the ticker at the bottom of the screen. We listen to our friends complain about their spouses and conclude that he/she married a total jerk. Our children tell us about their “mean” teacher and we agree, based on their stories, that she must be. Even among families, the in-law is ALWAYS to blame. Our fellow football fan friends tell us how obnoxious the other team’s fans were, and because we cheer for the same team, we wholeheartedly agree. When we allow our emotions to enter into the picture, it’s dangerously easy to let them sway our thinking and make our decisions. As I have gotten older, I’ve tried harder to remember that there really are two sides to every story. I’ve also decided that if I make a judgement too soon, it can make me look downright foolish. There’s a lot to be said for being open and thoughtful. When our loved ones talk to us about their issues with other people, we can be supportive yet mindful of another point of view. Sometimes, it’s not easy to be objective. But if we keep our minds open to some degree, it’s at least possible. The truth is, the more thought we give to any particular situation, the better.
I’m so thankful for Jesus and for the perfect example he sets for each of us. He didn’t come to take sides; He only came to draw us to His side. He so loved the world, including His own enemies and the vilest of sinners. I’m so glad that He is for us-not against us! God sent Jesus to show us that He is on our side! So when we see others through the lens of Jesus’ love, we are less prone to judge. He helps us to become better listeners. He increases our capacity to understand the big picture. He enables us to make better decisions. In our humanity, we are hasty to judge and condemn. Let’s make it our sincere prayer to love others as Jesus does. He has offered grace to all of us so freely. We overstep our bounds when we conclude that some are more worthy of it than others. So the next time we’re tempted to choose a side, let’s resolve to first take His.