“Are we clear?”
We learned to ask this question of one another early in our marriage. We were checking to see if there were any hurts or offenses that conflicted our relationship. I admit it; I was a clueless oaf when it came to relating to a woman. I was selfish; I did not mean to be, but I was. I just didn’t get it. I would offend and never know it. This relationship question moved our marriage a giant step forward, because we agreed to ask it every day.
Even today, I am something of an oaf, but I am a nicer oaf.
When we began to raise our children, a whole new set of wills entered our home and they were often in conflict. Although most conflicts were small and probably insignificant, they were real. They disrupted the peace in our home when they were not addressed. When these conflicts finally surfaced, we often realized that we were dealing with an issue that might be days or even weeks old. Our children simply did not know how to resolve their problems with one another.
Patricia discovered this passage about Moses in Exodus 18:12-24. Verse 16 is the key: “Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws." Patricia saw that Moses took time to stop and settle disputes; she realized that she needed to do the same thing as the mother of this small tribe. It gave Moses an opportunity to teach God’s decrees and laws; and it would do the same for her with our children.
Here are four things we tried to get across:
1) Relationships became top priority! Everything stopped in order to make relationships right. If we had to be late, we were late. If dinner got cold, it got cold. Relationships came first.
2) Ask and extend forgiveness: Say, “Will you forgive me?” We insisted on this principle that Jesus taught. If you offend, go and clear it up. If someone asks forgiveness, forgive. This is God’s way, and it is a blessed way. (Now that our children are older—14 to 25—we are seeing the fruit of training them to take the time to ask and receive forgiveness.)
3) You can be right but not righteous. We approached righteousness as a relationship word: being in right relationship with God, people, and things. We learned that a person can be right and yet hurt others with his words. Damage could be done in the name of “being right.” We could not change what was right or wrong, but we could seek to be right in a context of humility and consideration of others.
4) Punishing the guilty brought resolution. There is something cleansing about punishment. Proverbs 20:30 is pretty clear about this: “Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.” When someone offended and no punishment was carried out, the offended one had no sense of justice being done. The guilty person knew that the issue was not resolved because there was no closure. An appropriate punishment coupled with forgiveness brought closure to an offense.
Bickering—We separated them for a limited time and gave them individual things to do like reading, playing alone, or practicing piano. We found this more productive than time-out. Before allowing them to come back together, we made sure issues were resolved.
Hurtful words—If sweet things did not come out of their mouths, sweet things were not allowed to go in (no treats or desserts).
Hitting, kicking, harmful play—We simply spanked them and then worked through the forgiveness issues.
In all of the above, we took time to explain, to use scripture, to ask and extend forgiveness.
A balancing truth: My mom was visiting with us once and she shared this bit of wisdom with us, “You don’t have to see everything. Let them work some things out themselves.” After you have trained them, give them room to work things out. Then you become the place of appeal: less hands-on but nearby for counsel.
Ephesians 4:26 encouraged us with this admonition and summarized what we wanted to teach our children: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
Resolve it now, today, asap!!!