Yesterday, JTR shared a video in which a liberal Democrat borrowed religious language to ask God to bless and further the abortion agenda. Surely this was the ultimate oxymoron! Now, I have no way of knowing whether she was being ironic. She appeared to be perfectly sincere, and quite unaware of how bizarre and contradictory she sounded to a Christian who is pro-life.
As I thought about this, I began to wonder whether conservative God-fearers sometimes borrow the rhetoric and values of the secular world, perhaps without even knowing it.
- We may nod our heads when we hear the phrase, “In the world but not of it;”
- we may tap our toe in time to “This world is not my home, I’m only passing through;”
- we may hang up a plaque that reads, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord;”
- we may think we are raising our children to be God-fearing, devout and humble.
But. Are we really?
I just watched a new installment in the video lecture series, Prager University. My brother introduced this web channel to me, and he has linked several of Dennis Prager’s lectures on this blog. Yesterday’s address was a bit different. It was delivered by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. Here it is–about 4 minutes long:
(***For the entire transcript, go HERE***)
His premise is simple:
We tend to praise our children for
- scholastic achievement;
- athletic prowess;
- artistic talent;
- and (mostly for girls), looks.
He contends that we could immediately and exponentially make a positive change in our families, communities and society-at-large by doing one thing: reserving our highest praise for our children when they perform acts of kindness. Why will this make such a difference? Because we will raise a generation of children whose
“…self-esteem will come more from their goodness than from anything else.”
What the Rabbi doesn’t quite spell out is that when we give our highest praise to achievements, we breed pride and competition, and a sense that people are valuable mainly for their accomplishments. We want our children to value and respect all life–but when we neglect to teach that respect, or when we fail to praise them highly when they show it, we really are not being pro-life, are we?
This idea that we should praise EVERY child’s integrity, courage, kindness, and honesty above all is powerful. This means that children who are not above-average in any other way can still excel in something which is vitally important.
This resonated with me because of a little girl for whom I babysat for several years. Cissy (not her real name) will never be the smartest, fastest or prettiest girl in her class. But what I remember most about her is best illustrated by one of her birthday parties I attended. Some of the girls invited were ill-mannered, temperamental, jealous of the party-girl’s attentions to others. But Cissy modeled decorum and sweetness through it all. When it was time to open gifts, she took time to look carefully at each one, to sincerely thank the giver and tell them why she appreciated their present. I was so impressed. Diplomats could have taken lessons from her gracious manner–and she was eight years old at the time.
As a Christian, I would add a couple of thoughts to the Rabbi’s lecture. First of all, while he assures his audience that we should still praise our children’s accomplishments and talents, I would suggest saying things like this:
- “God has given you an excellent mind!”
- “You are so gifted in music–that’s a wonderful way to worship God, isn’t it?”
- “God has graced you with stamina and speed. When you train hard to be the best you can be, you honor Him for His gift to you.”
And if we sincerely believe that “this world is not our home” then we will always remind our children that their conduct in the world is more important than their achievement, because as Christians their most important job is to become more and more like Jesus.
And while I agree with the Rabbi that we want our young people to grow up getting satisfaction and happiness from their own integrity and goodness, we don’t want them to become prideful in the process. There are plenty of folks who feel no need of God, saying, “Hey, I’m a good person”–and they are, in the world’s sense. That doesn’t mean they’re good enough for a perfect God.
In fact, He’s made it pretty clear that that isn’t possible. Here’s just one example:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
…But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. “
–Romans 3:22-24 (NIV)
So along with praising our children for their good character, we must find ways to instill in them the humility which knows that ultimately they cannot please God without first acknowledging their need for a Savior.
Then we will be raising GREAT citizens for two worlds: this one, and the next.