Friday, July 8, 2011

Lock 'Em Up, Throw Away the Key

I am excited to address in detail some of the topics I touched on in my last post. I think that this true story may give some mommies insight into the impact of spankings on some children. All children are different; some are more sensitive than others. In future posts, I plan to share some testimonies from people with different personalities as to how spankings impacted them inwardly.

Once there was a little girl who very consistently received spankings, ones that even she would've said she deserved. A spanking was the penalty for any infraction, minor or major. The little girl's parents felt that the spankings were highly effective. After all, their little girl was a model of perfect behavior. She was cheerful most of the time, she worked hard to help her mom around the house, she was quick to obey any directive her parents gave her.

The little girl's parents were careful not to spank in anger. They followed a procedure of talking to the little girl before and after each spanking. The little girl always seemed so repentant before the spanking. After the spanking, she appeared to be relieved of a heavy burden of guilt that she had been carrying.

The little girl grew up to be an excellent teenager. She was easy to get along with and quick to please. She was upheld in her church as a model of good behavior for younger girls.

Though on the outside this little girl was a model daughter, on the inside things were different. You see, spankings taught this girl a very important lesson: as long as you conceal all sin and human weakness, including negative emotions, you will be acceptable and valued, and you will escape punishment. 

The little girl's parents understood that all humans are born sinners who are unable to make themselves better. They thought that by spanking the little girl they were teaching her that sin has consequences. They thought that by teaching her to immediately and cheerfully obey all parental directives, they were teaching her to trust and obey God. What they didn't know was that many times, the little girl did wrong because she was impulsive. They didn't know that she longed for the opportunity, time and again, to simply admit her wrong and be forgiven. They thought it was funny when once, she attempted to spank herself hard, in order to avoid punishment. They didn't know that many times, as this little girl was spanked, she felt humiliated and angry. She often wanted to turn around and scream at her parents. At other times, she would spend the entire spanking hating herself, wondering how God could ever love someone as wretched and horrible as she, wondering what she could ever do to make God love her; to get on His good side; after all, look what her parents required of her when she sinned! Yes, she knew about Jesus, but it seemed that she was too horrible for His death to be sufficient for her. The little girl was relieved after the spanking was over, not because the burden of guilt had been lifted, but because she knew that, an hour or so after the spanking, her parents would once again smile at her and accept her; she knew that they would then require no "payment" from her for her sins. Each time she was spanked, she would vow to behave better.

As the little girl grew older, she put her trust in Jesus, believing that He had paid her sin debt. Each time she was spanked or punished, she went running to God with her guilt-feelings. She began to see Him as a refuge, as One who forgave her right away, no payment required. She ran to Him when she felt unacceptable. But she hid her true self from her parents. When she was angry or hurt during a spanking, or when she was angry at watching one of her siblings get spanked, she ran to God with her anger, mentally declaring, "At least YOU love me!" or "Please avenge my sibling!" So, in a sense, spankings drove this girl to God, but in a different way than her parents intended. As an adult, this little girl struggled to reconcile a God who on the one hand was so good, a refuge for the hurting, with a God who required that childish misbehavior be punished although Jesus had already paid these children's sin debt. Sometimes, she did not even want to read her Bible, for fear that God would suddenly turn on her, declaring that she was unacceptable, declaring that she must be punished.

As a teen, this girl hated to be called "sweet" or a "role-model." She knew that in her heart she was imperfect, weak, sinful. She was terrified that those who put her on a pedestal would one day be disappointed in her when they found out she wasn't her they thought she was. She hated herself. She often wanted to rebel to escape from the pressure. 

When the girl entered college, she did not know who she was. She was terrified of any authority figure, whether pastor or professor. She did as she was told without questioning. As she progressed through college, she began to realize that she was an equal to others, that she could indeed question those in "authority" over her. This led her to question many things that she had been taught as a child. She began to feel free as she realized that she was a person, capable of thinking for herself, of standing up for herself.

You see, spankings taught this little girl to hide her true self, to exhibit perfection. They taught her that to be acceptable, she must never be negative, never be disobedient, never question authority. She knew that she must never tell her parents how spankings made her feel. She knew that after a spanking, she should act repentant and remorseful, but she also knew that she shouldn't cry for too long or sound angry when she cried after a spanking, or that would be reason for another round. 

Essentially, the little girl learned to lock up the parts of her that were wrong and messed up. She learned how to act in order to avoid punishment, keeping her inner prison cell locked, the key forever lost. Wouldn't anyone, adult or child, respond this way to punishment? The very purpose of punishment is to create feelings of fear in a child so as to keep them behaving in a certain way. My husband recently told me that dogs who are hit with a stick as a training method often either become excessively compliant, timid, and fearful, or suddenly turn on their owners in anger. 

Is this really what God requires of Christian parents? Is this how He treats His children? In Jesus, He provided a cleanser, a healer, a just escape from the payment we all owe for our sins. He did not want us to have to bear a load of sin and guilt. He did not exact penance from us.

I cuddle my daughter and thank God that I do not have to load her with feelings of guilt and fear as I nurture her into adulthood. I smile when my son cheerfully exclaims, "Thankyou, mommy," or "Okay, mommy," because I know that his words express genuine feelings: these are things I have never forced him to say to me. I am thankful that my son can tell me, "I am sad," or "I don't like it when you say/do that, mommy," or even scream in frustration without fear of reprisal. I welcome any chance to tell my son, "Aydon, Jesus died to pay for your sins. He loves you so very much!" I am convicted that I need to pray without ceasing because I know that it will be God's spirit who woos and convicts my son, not me. 

I read this verse with tears in my eyes, thankful for a compassionate God:

Psalm 103:10-14 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust

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