Insisting and Reminding1
"I got it already."
"But he kept reminding me. Every time I turned around: notes in my lunch, another talk, another rerun, another 'why you ought to do this,' or 'why you ought to believe that.' His badgering drove me crazy."
These were the thoughts of a de-churched 20-something I was working with.
He didn't dislike God or the church, he just got worn out with well-meaning parents who thought insisting, repeating and underlining was the way to get through to him.
Let me restate this so you'll understand . . .
I've been guilty of the same spirit of insistence. Of reiterating, restating, of hammering it home. Maybe I wasn't clear enough? Maybe they forgot? Maybe if I say it another time, in a slightly different way, they'll finally get it.
Good motives. Painful, counter-productive execution.
I confused what's easily confused: The other person doesn't understand me unless they see it my way and change.
Since they didn't embrace it like I did, or change their behavior like I have, then it's obvious they didn't hear me, they didn't "get it." So, of course, what do I do? Remind them again! Maybe they'll get it this time. But most of the time, they did "get it", they just chose to hold it a different way than I do, or believe or act in a different way than I do.
Can't another child of God understand me and still see things differently than I do?
I know that's hard when you really believe in what you're repeating.
But is this about you, or about them? And about God growing them?
I think one of the hardest things to do as a parent is to share what we think is really good and really helpful, and even really what I believe God wants, and have our kids go another path. Painful. Heartbreaking.
Of course, we do well to teach and instruct and remind our children. Yes, Deuteronomy 6.4-9 is a wonderful, oh so practical reminder. Don't let your kids run wild. Don't be a passive parent. Speak and show the way of life.
But God's always good word also warns us:
"Fathers, don’t exasperate your children," Ephesians 6.4.
"Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits." Colossians 3.21.
Our repeating and insisting grinds spirits.
And it's not just with our kids that we insist, remind and drive crazy.
It's not only fathers and moms, but it's husbands to wives and wives to husbands. And friends to friends, pastors to people, teachers with students, and mentors with those they coach.
Yes, we should encourage, warn and teach one another--spouses, brothers and sisters in Christ, and friends, Colossians 1.28-29.
But reminding our spouses and friends again, "Did you read that book yet?" Or insisting, "You've just got to hear this podcast or watch this movie" communicates a lack of respect for the other. Repeating again, asking a second or third time, sending another email or text to a friend, spouse, or an adult child until they "get it" is not loving. Even if you really, really, really believe in it, or think it's the best. Love the other by giving them freedom not to feel pressured or badgered, even when that's not your intention.
So, some takeaways for parents of younger ones, parents of adult children, spouses and friends:
1. Remind and insist less and less as your kids grow. (And they grow faster than you think!) Remember how it feels when someone insists and sends you 3 emails and a tweet trying to persuade you, "Try this." "Did you read this?" "This will change your life." I got it the first time, thanks.
2. Grow in trusting God's Holy Spirit to be God's Holy Spirit. Trust Him to do what only He can really do in the life of the person you love. Stop playing Holy Spirit. Ask God to give you His peace after you've shared an idea or thought or insight once. Leave it there. They heard, and they'll do what they choose with it. You did your part, now keep praying.
3. And remember, one more reminder probably doesn't feel like badgering to you, but it does to them. And it's them you love, right?