The Place of No Regrets
by Jackie Katz
Yes, I admit it: I have regrets. I wish I didn't, but I do. I regret that I disciplined my children in anger. I regret that I used anger to control. I regret my impatience and sharp words. I regret my unkind spirit and failure to encourage. I regret it all. Even now that my children are grown my regrets sometimes accrue such power they erase all memory of the good I did as a mother. Regret has been a familiar and frequent companion.
Regrets are not easy to bear. They breed the "if onlys." If only I could erase the past. If only I could do it over. If only… But we can never turn back the clock. The choices we make today have consequences in the future and we must live with them. It's that old sowing and reaping principle that Scripture talks about. We reap what we sow. Oh, it's not that I haven't asked for forgiveness; I have... many times. I confessed my failures and asked for forgiveness and the children were quick to forgive, but I still regret I did not exercise more self-control. How can we minimize the "regrets" and the "if onlys?" We need to assess our actions today and do something about them.
In Eph. 6:4 Paul says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger..." Paul here is speaking about a parental issue, one that involves both parents. The word provoke here means to make one beside himself in anger. This kind of anger is identified by sudden heated outbursts. Parents are to rear children in such a way that they will not become angry young men and women.
In Col. 3:21, a similar command is given, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." The word provoke here means to embitter, stir up, excite, exasperate. It connotes a turning in of anger as shown by the phrase lest they be discouraged. Parents need to discipline their children in such a way that will not "break their children's spirits" or "take the wind out of their sails."
God has placed us in authority over our children but He warns us not to abuse that power. We are responsible to God for the exercise of that authority, and misusing it carries devastating results, leading only to regrets. I invite you to stop and take this simple evaluation. It will help you identify the ways in which you may be provoking your child to anger.
RECOGNIZING THE SYMPTOMS
1. Outward anger
This child is openly rebellious and explodes in anger against authority. His anger is turned "outward." He is uncooperative, disrespectful and has trouble controlling his temper.
2. A wounded and closed spirit
This child's spirit appears broken and closed. He is withdrawn and moody, unresponsive and apathetic, discouraged or even resistant to authority. His anger is turned "inward" which can lead to bitterness. You can detect a wounded spirit if your child frequently does not entrust you with his deepest secrets.
3. A poor self-image
A large part of your child's self-concept comes from the way he thinks you see him. If he does not "feel" love and respect from you, he concludes that he is a disappointment to you.
A PLAN FOR ACTION
By now you may want to throw up your hands, turn in your parent badge and quit! If you feel that you have made a great many mistakes in rearing your children, welcome to the human race! Parenting is not a simple task and we are not perfect. God in His grace has provided a way to repair relationships.
What can you do if you have been provoking your child to anger?
1. Identify the specific ways you have been provoking your child to anger.
2. Confess these sins to God and ask for His forgiveness. Be sure to accept God's forgiveness for past mistakes (1 Jn. 1:9).
3. Ask your child to forgive you for the specific things you have done. Nothing initiates change as much as saying, "I was wrong, will you please forgive me?" (Prov. 28:13).
4. Ask your child if there are other ways in which you have provoked him or her to anger. If he or she reveals other ways, ask for forgiveness. Together, make plans to replace old behaviors with new behaviors (Heb. 10:24).
Trying to raise a child with no regrets is not an easy task. But we can minimize the regrets and the "if onlys" if we assess our actions today and do something about them. So after you take this simple self evaluation, do your best to follow the plan for action and allow God to bring you to the place of no regrets.