When I was a child, discipline usually began with the statement, ‘You know I love you…but…’ I don’t think the conditionality of that statement scarred me, but I didn’t like the sound of it coming out of my mouth to my children. It sounded wrong. Like my love was limited to times when behavior was stellar…which isn’t going to be always with kids. I was perplexed about how to phrase my deep love for my children while addressing their inappropriate actions. I needed new words.
Enter Andrew Taylor-Troutman, minister, author, blogger (http://www.takemyhandmemoir.com/blog) . He was invited to speak at our church on the topics of parenting, pastoring, and publishing. I posed my question to him: how do I communicate ‘I love you, but you can’t do this’ without the ‘but’? He thought for a shorter moment than I expected and replied with, ‘What about ‘and’?’ Hmmmm…
‘I love you, and you can’t behave this way.’ Hmmmm… ‘I love you, and you must stop hitting your sister.’ ‘I love you, and you cannot be disrespectful to me.’ Hmmm… I liked it. I could see how it could work. Affirmation and redirection. Probably with a long pause in between to let the first message sink in before delivering the instruction of the second one. Unconditional love with the added bonus of showing them a road map to getting out of the predicament wherein they found themselves.
Yes, this would work. I liked it very much. It was hard to implement as the old phrase kept popping out of my maternal mouth. I jokingly told a friend that I needed to tattoo ‘and’ on my arm so that I remember to say it. But I actually ended up doing something a little more drastic…I painted it on the wall.
Reminders that good things come in pairs. Bacon and eggs. Hugs and kisses. Forgiving and forgetting. AND that joys and sorrows come together, too. Work and play. Sinners and saints. Love and discipline.
When the kids have asked, ‘Why did you paint a big ‘and’ sign on the wall?’, I tell them it’s a reminder that sometimes good things happen AND sometimes bad things happen. AND that we survive them both. It’s a healthy way to view life, I think. We can celebrate the joys and work through the sorrows together. Always loving, though not always lovable. And always loved.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
1 Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. 3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
3“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”