Back in the day I was a pretty serious long distance runner. No 26.2’s, but I ran my share of half marathons. But this is how I processed those long races. I would always be anxious the night before, and the drive over, and finding parking at the event. Always my nerves would be chomping at the bit right up to the park and lock. Now, I’ve always been a person with a strong faith in Jesus coupled with an unapologetic fighting spirit. SO it was, as I arrived at the starting line, without fail, there was this total sense of peace that came over me. I wasn’t afraid of the 13.1 miles in front of me. It was as if the starting line was in effect, the finish line. I waited for the gun to go off feeling like a million bucks. And this mantra would go through my head. I made it. Crazy I know- because the race had only just started. But truly the worst of it was behind me. All I had left was the finish, and clearly that was in hand the minute the gun went off. Literally a jolt of adrenalin would shoot through me. I knew at that very moment, it was as good as done. Winston Churchill, one of the greatest statesmen of all times, and most courageous leader of the free world, delivered these famous words in a 1942 speech at London’s Mansion House, just after the British routed Rommel’s forces at Alamein, driving German troops out of Egypt. The battle marked a turning point in WWII: Churchill: Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” And THAT, my friends is pretty much exactly what I told my girl in Paris today. She is about to go into mandatory home confinement with the rest of her French allies. That means the physical company of both her friends and the local parks which she has so enjoyed up to now, will be no longer. I said to her “Shelby we are in the middle of this now. We have already conquered the starting line. We only have to finish. We can do it. I know we can. Keep your chin up, and most importantly keep your faith in the fight.” What about you? Are you hung up in the parking lot? You’ve already passed the starting line. So keep your faith in the fight.
On the subject of fear, we all have it, but is it phobos, or is it a yare’? It makes a difference.
Phobos is the original greek word for the fear found in 1 John 4:18. which says “There is no fear (phobos) in love. But perfect love drives out fear (phobos), because fear (phobos) has to do with punishment. The one who fears, (who has phobos,) is not make perfect in love.” This fear we all know and recognize. This greek word is defined as terror or alarm, and the part I find the most eye-opening: withdrawing or fleeing for feeling inadequate, or to avoid because of dead fright. Phobos.
In 2 Timothy 1:7 We are told clearly that “God did not give us a spirit of fear (deilia) but one of power, love, and self-discipline.” The original word used here for fear is deilia which means timidity or cowardice. Ouch. Both deilia and phobos are the types of fear that control us, keep us sidetracked; off-center, out of balance; preoccupied; and therefore….unhappy and disgruntled with the world and the people around us. Do you see any connections?
On the other hand yare’, a wholly different kind of fear found in Deuteronomy 10:12 seems to be one that drives us forward; motivates us; spurs us on to do the right thing; to embrace healthy risk, Hope, and goodness: “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear (yare’) the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”
The first, phobos, is the one that most all of us fall victim to-I don’t care what religion you profess, even no religion at all. We all fall victim to phobos. I mean these are the original Greek and Hebrew definitions for two distinctly different types of fears, particularly as they are used in this context, and the ancient writers of scripture apparently found them useful in making sure their readers understood the types of behavior characteristic of both phobos and yare’.
Phobos vs. Yare‘
I just finished a 15 day overseas trip with my youngest daughter Katie. The tradition started when my oldest daughter Shelby graduated from high school and requested a “mom and daughter” trip. She chose England. My middle daughter chose France and Katie chose Ireland. What does this all have to do with phobos you ask?
Well, a lot really.
I think I am guilty as charged of posting a plethora of pictures when traveling, perhaps presenting the idea that “this is all so carefree and easy.” Tripping across the ocean alone with my child, renting a car and driving on the left (the wrong) side of the road; negotiating foreign lands, cultures, ferries, boats, planes, uncharted territories and situations. I often feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of being the sole caretake for my girl-protecting her from harm’s way were it indeed to come our way. I pour over the details in pre-planning stages, then when we are in the eye of the storm, I reexamine, every. single. night. our itinerary for the next day. Truth. I sometimes lose sleep (not just from jet lag) and have a lot of anxiety.
That is when I realize that the phobos of 1 John 4:18 is taking hold of me, and I need to tell it to stand down. Because the almighty God is the house. I know this specifically because 1 Corinthians 3:16 is explicit about where the Almighty dwells….in me. I am the house.
When I trade phobos in for yare’, He moves into first place, and my phobos is suppressed by the only thing it can be, yare’. Yare’ is phobos’ greatest enemy. Yeah we need to name our fear.
Life is full of bumps in the road, to put it mildly right? Death, murder, loss, bad diagnosis, betrayal, disappointment, depression, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of opportunities for us to be 100% consumed by a phobos kind of fear. Yes! But we have 100% reason to not be either. We have all the more reason to be covered with a yare’ kind of fear.
If you were to take a poll of 100 people and asked them which emotion consumes them the most. Which one takes up residence in their hearts and minds, I think phobos would be the clear winner. Yes, it wins over all of them: jealousy, anger, hurt, sadness, joy, disgust…because I believe phobos is at the root of all of these emotions. I belive that phobos is the common denominator among all of our negative emotions. Just as yare‘ is perhaps the common denominator among all of our positive emotions.
Fear (phobos) of inferiority or insignificance can cause jealousy.
Fear (phobos) of commitment can cause loneliness.
Fear (phobos) of loss can cause depression .
Fear (phobos) of failure can cause timidity.
Fear (phobos) of the darkness can cause hopelessness.
On the other hand,
Fear (yare’) of God, can lead to understanding.
Fear (yare’) of God can lead to wisdom.
Fear (yare’) of God can lead to Hope.
Fear (yare’) of God can lead to Joy.
So what can we do about phobos? Capture every single thought that is riddled with phobos and trample it into a million fragments under your feet into nothingness. Every thought or pretention that sets itself up as truth-but yet it is not-let it disintegrate into the same darkness from which it came. (2 corinthians 10:5) If you need to, write your phobos on a piece of paper, and rip the paper to shreds. It is a thought, a contention, a fear- a phobos- whose only purpose is to separate you from your God, from yare’.
Yare’ advances us. Phobos puts us into retreat.
Yare’ puts phobos in its place. Yare’ tells phobos in no uncertain terms to stand down. My God is in the house.
Too often the way we live our lives lowers the bar of expectation. We need to remember whose we are. If we live our lives in a way that rises up only as far as is necessary in meeting the standards set by the world around us, (ie ungodly friends or associates, social networking, the media, or sin that entangles us), then not only are we not honoring God’s call in our life but we are cheating ourselves out of the best life He has for us. (John 10:10 ). This goes for all of us, whether you profess Christianity or not. Remember whose we are. Live THAT life. And once we establish that for ourselves, we can more easily make a decision to parent that way as well. Encouraging our kids to live a life free from the tyranny of their culture and a legalistic religion, both of which are void of depth in relationships, will propel them farther in life and toward success than you and I could ever imagine. I would humbly and joyfully submit to you this: You have a 3rd alternative in parenting. You can choose Jesus.
Faith in Culture: Our culture is pushing arrogance and egotism onto our kids at alarming levels. This narcissistic model for teaching empowerment is hardly a worthy prototype for moving our kids towards a life full of healthy relationships and successful and joyful living. This alternative lies to them. But how? By teaching them that they are the center of their universe. That everyone and everything revolves around him! It’s a cruel joke in the end, as soon as they realize they are not the center of the universe. Ambiguity and confusion along with a lack of absolute truth about who they are intrinsically, leads them to real disappointment. A disappointment that fails to encourage service to others, compassion and generosity, truthfulness, and a strong work and leadership ethic. Impulsiveness is the name of the game. Reactive versus proactive. Reckless endangerment of their mental health and sadly, the mental and emotional health of others. “If it feels good, then I can do it,” or “If it feels good, then I can be it,” is the pervading message of our culture. But the world we live in, carefully and strategically, wraps all of this up in a package, which on the outside says something nice about your right to be whoever and whatever you want to be. Indeed, a tenet we have employed in raising our own girls. But not at the expense of teaching them who God says they are first. The problem is when you peel back the layers of this first alternative, you find no person standing in your corner when you’re losing. No one cheering you on when you’re winning. Just a shallow selfless way of living that leaves you alone and empty.
Faith in Religion: Tolerance or Religion VS. Grace. A pastor friend of mine, Dan, once said “Tolerance is a cheep and flimsy virtue compared to robust examples of grace like patience, hospitality, justice, kindness, and love.” Grace is something that falls out of “true religion” that is revealed to us in James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Discouraging you from teaching your child to place her faith in religion, does not mean there is no such thing as a conversion experience, a moment we all must have when we commit our lives to Christ. Or else, did Christ die for nothing? No, not at all. But imploring your child to check off all the appropriate boxes in order to save her soul, at the expense of teaching her that true faith is characterized by a personal relationship in Jesus, is flat wrong. Do this, and you can add her to the ever growing list of church casualties that fill the pews of our churches, and the halls of our government offices, schools, and homes. Don’t fall victim to this distorted view of your child’s faith. Jesus wasn’t just a 1st century program for the new covenant church. The bible is the sum of all its parts and more. It is a story about a Savior. And in that story, Jesus was in the beginning, the middle and the end (John 1:1 Revelations 22:13) And that story didn’t end on the island of Patmos at the end of Revelations. Not nearly. This story is still ongoing. We are all part of it. Where do you see yourself in that story? Your answer to that is critical in understanding the need for us to read the bible as seekers and not cavilers. For teaching our kids true faith in Jesus and not just our version of religion.
Faith in Jesus: The exponentially cool thing about teaching your child to place his faith in Jesus, is that Jesus won’t fail him. No we don’t teach a prosperity gospel, or a “hard times will never come to you if you only believe,” gospel. Not even. Faith in Jesus means faith in someONE that never changes, never fails, even when the world or people in your life fail you. And they will. Jesus stands unmovable. “God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.” Hebrews 6:18-19
Whether we want to admit it or not, the previous decades leading up to our “here and now” have led our kids down multiple stray paths. Where they choose to place their faith matters. What you teach them about where to place their faith matters. I would ask you to humbly and with an open spirit, consider the faith alternatives I have proposed here. This isn’t something I made up. Nor is it something that will be unfamiliar to you. All I did was put it in perspective in the form of a visual graphic. As parents, early on, (as early as possible), we can choose the 3rd alternative. We can make a decision to point them down a path that allows them to live a life of abundance, even in sorrow and hardship, that the other two reigning alternatives simply cannot do for them. And if you are reading this in the later stages of parenting, stop, take a breath, and regroup. It’s never too late to engage your children with truth coupled with unconditional love. It’s never too late to “Do The Next Right Thing.” It’s never too late to offer them the 3rd alternative: A life with Jesus.
Galatians 5:1 says: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” If only we could see how those first two alternatives put a strangle hold on our children, a “yoke of slavery,” and how Jesus just wants to set them free from that.
Just when I think the term helicopter parent has been exhausted, then I meet another one. Before we talk about the dangers of hovering and how not to be so over-controlling, I think it is important to address why we might be tempted to be so in the first place.
Possible reasons for being a hovering parent, and there could be overlap:
- You want a different life for them than what you had growing up.
- You have trauma in your own past. You were hurt by someone you thought you could trust.
- We are not risk takers ourselves. So why encourage that in our kids?
- You are a control freak.
- Your anxiety level is so high you don’t possibly know how you can keep your kid safe.
- You believe the world owes you, so therefore, they owe your kid as well.
- Any of the above edges out common sense parenting, leaving hovering as your primary parenting tool.
Let’s be clear. There’s a difference between advocating and hovering. Recently I knew of a young boy who called his mom to pick him up so he didn’t have to go to his sporting practice. He wasn’t sick. He just didn’t want to go. She did it. She picked him up. That’s hovering. I listened to a birthday prank on the radio this morning. The DJ told the father on the phone that the game system he had purchased for his son for Christmas was on back order. With no other provocation, the dad dropped two expletives 60 seconds into the phone call about how he needed that game system for his son by Christmas. That’s hovering. (And rude). A couple of weeks ago, a young and brand new teacher friend of mine sent a note home to a mama that her daughter had used permanent markers to draw all over the class room bean bag chairs. The chairs were ruined. Mom sent a note back and said “I thought they were supposed to get three warnings.” That’s hovering. How many parents have stormed into public school buildings angrily demanding to know why their kid didn’t get the part or the position or the award he should have. That’s hovering. At the park, I saw a toddler fall down, suffer no physical damage whatsoever, other than wounded pride, and his mom went busting over to rescue him. The rescue consumed at least 5 full minutes and led to the conclusion of play time at the park for the day. That’s hovering. Someone showed up at her son’s job interview. (Literally, this happened). How many times have we given into temptation to shower our college kids with cash at the drop of a hat or been tempted to usurp their abilities to take care of their own college business? That’s hovering. Maybe you over involve yourself in your adult child’s business. You just can’t afford to let them live their own life. They might mess it up. That’s hovering.
As I already mentioned, there is a difference between advocating and hovering. We can and should be advocates for our children. And even our young adults. But did you know that advocating for your child doesn’t just happen in a necessary conversation with another individual about something that concerns your kid? No not even. We advocate best for our kids in conversations we have with them. (Parenting tip # 23 in my book.) Instructional conversations, life giving conversations. Conversations about expectations and consequences. If your daughter attends college 15 hours away from you and goes to an ATM machine at night by herself with an unsavory character lurking nearby, you would be at your advocating best if you were there in the parking lot with her at the time of the event right? Yes for sure. But the conversation you had with her years prior that warned her of the dangers of going to ATM machines alone at night, that was you advocating for her in the anticipation of events yet to happen. Yes, conversations we have with our kids by the truck load-that’s us advocating for them. Newsflash. They are going to be out doing their life away from us, at some point or another, whether we advocated for them in this way or not. If we spent those years hovering rather than advocating, well, it could be a rough ride. If you want your kids to be productive, positive, empowered adults, then when they are young quit bailing them out. (Parenting Tip #10)
The difference between advocating and hovering is measurable and quantifiable. Over controlled kids are more anxious, misguided and have low conflict resolution skills. This equates to problems in the classroom and in personal relationships, perhaps sadly, for years to come. In an article in Psychology today dated August, 2016 by Nathan H. Lents, Ph.D., Dr. Lent states:
“Helicopter parents that seek to shield their children from all forms of adversity are not doing them any favors. Physical exertion, confrontations on the playground, competitions with real winners and real losers, getting minor bumps and bruises, and even periodically experiencing fear are all inducers of acute stress. Falling off of a swing, for example, teaches a kid a variety of lessons that just can’t be learned any other way. If kids are protected from all possible risks when the stakes are low, how will they navigate risk-taking when they are older and the stakes are much higher? While we should all strive to protect children from chronic stress, depriving them of healthy forms of safe stress may leave them unable to deal with stress as adults.”
Kids, whose parents are healthy advocates, are typically better adjusted emotionally. They can navigate disappointment in life, because they have been allowed to be disappointed and even at times, bored. They have not been routinely bailed out. They have had to use their imaginations when they didn’t get every single new thing they wanted for Christmas or their birthday. They are kids, whose parents are not perfect, but neither do they lead lives defined by past hurt, trauma or failure. Advocating means these parents choose not to teach or discipline or love their kids through the lenses of comparison, bank accounts, fear, entitlement or bitterness. Parents who advocate for their children verses hovering realize that their child’s love for them is not fragile. They know that just because they discipline them for falling out of line, doesn’t mean their kid will fall out of love with them. Advocating versus hovering. It’s critical that we can distinguish between the two. It can make a world of difference in the adult your child becomes down the road.
Recently a mentor of mine was helping me work through a couple of current conundrums in my life. At the end of our discussion, she reminded me that I had no control over the actual people in my conundrum or their own personal outcomes. I find this frustrating since I am a problem solver by nature. I pleaded with her, tongue in cheek, to just give me a few steps for successfully changing them. She just laughed and reminded me to consider what is in my area of influence and what can I personally change.
In other words Judy, what can YOU change in YOURSELF to make YOU better? So that those around you benefit in the process? I think that is so true in parenting and marriage too.
Sometimes we want instant solutions to make our children behave or to get our spouses to do ____________XYZ! I did recently write five-great-habits-for-getting-your-kids-to-listen. And it’s true we need tried and true methods of handling situations in our life and parenting. Yes yes yes! But the truth is a lot of relationship building and successful parenting is about how much WE are willing to change ourselves. We are often so intent on manipulating others, that we cannot as my grandmother used to say, “see the forest for the trees.” In other words, we can’t see solutions because our big giant egos are blocking the view. We can’t see what would bring us joy or happiness. We can’t see what would actually help! We are just blinded by our own unwillingness to change things in ourselves that perhaps need to be changed and that can be changed.… For example, I recently recommended to someone the financial peace program by David Ramsey for helping squash her debt. It’s actually a proven program that has helped literally hundreds of thousands of people reduce or eliminate millions of dollars of personal debt. Anyway, she was super offended because unbeknownst to me, she was atheist and said she would never do that program since Ramsey is a Christian. Oops, I felt bad. I had intended no harm whatsoever in offering this advice and I apologized for doing so unwittingly. I then shared with her the truth that I am a Christian, and yet one of my very favorite leadership books ever written was by a Mormon (The Severn Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey). Moreover, I added that I have a handful of solid parenting books in my personal library written by various experts in their fields, which make no reference to Christianity. Along with those, I also have parenting books authored by some of my favorite Christian authors. I have learned from all of them. But she couldn’t see the forest for the trees. She couldn’t acknowledge that this was a perfectly good tool to debt free living for her and her children. She was blocking her own view.
I was blocking my own view back in my early 20s. I made bad decision after bad decision, and conveniently always found someone to blame for my bad decisions. It is true that I had been dealt a difficult childhood of sorts. But only when I acknowledged that my life was about more and more of me and less and less of anyone else, did I finally have the wherewithal to ask God to please pick up the pieces of my brokenness and help me move forward. And not only that, but the wherewithal to ask other people to help me. I finally figured out I was blocking my own way out of misery. It is true that my life had been hard. But I still managed to be my own worst enemy.
That realization and awakening was the beginning of a new lease on life for me. I was able to be in healthy dating relationships for the first time in my life. I was able to build friend relationships without undue expectations of those I was befriending. This led to healthy parenting down the road. Knowing I cannot change people around me makes me a healthier individual and therefore, more adapted to parenting kids (now young adults) who are also healthy emotionally. Knowing I can ultimately only change myself led me to be better equipped for parenting my kids with purpose.
Being in relationship with our kids as we are raising them is a different thing all together than what it means to be in relationship with our spouses or parents or adult friends. And I want to make that clear. There are multiple scenarios we find ourselves in with littles where we do have to tell them what to do. And we can and should expect them to obey us. But God has created them, like you, fearfully and wonderfully. (Psalm 139) When we recognize that He has created all of us with purpose then we can look at all of our relationships through that filter and not through the filter of our pride or our past or our unmet expectations.
What can you change about yourself today? How will that set you on a path of better parenting and more joy in your relationships?