Sunday, November 16, 2008

The tricky business of unconditional love

Since it's Sunday, here's a little soul food for thought.

Last Sunday at church, the pastor gave a particularly thought-provoking sermon which I felt had a worthy lesson for parents. He was explaining how as Christians, we all know intellectually that God loves us despite our sins. Yet, we often feel that He somehow loves us less if we do something wrong. Does this speak to you? I know I feel that way sometimes. Eg. if I miss my quiet time, I feel guilty because I think that God disapproves and He probably loves the other more devoted person more.

This stems very much from our own relationship with our parents, and more importantly, mirrors our children's relationship with us. Although our love for our kids is unconditional (as with God's love for us), our kids haven't necessarily internalised it. And can you blame them? We only praise them when they do good things or get good grades. When they do something not to our satisfaction, they are scolded or punished. I think that's why so many kids get caught up with chasing achievements because they think that will earn them their parents' affection.

It's a sobering thought - that our kids do not know (or believe) that we love them no matter what.

In case you're thinking, "but if I don't scold them, they will keep making mistakes and stop trying hard!" I think it's ok to correct but be careful that it's not perceived by our children as a withdrawl of love. Again using the parallel of God's relationship with us, as the pastor put it, God's love is like a safety net. Once we are secure in the fact that God loves us (and blesses us) regardless of what we do, we will no longer have performance anxiety. Instead, we will strive to do good because we are grateful for His grace and we want to love Him in return. We won't feel guilty because mistakes are ok - they don't deprive us of His love.

Likewise, if our children are assured of our unconditional love, I believe it will motivate them to do good and work hard, because they will want to please us, not because they are afraid of displeasing us. Get the difference? In this manner, they will also be more willing to try, to make mistakes because the degree of our love and approval is not dependent on them being perfect.

"But where sin increased, grace increased all the
- Romans 5:20


Lilian said...

Having been schooled in a Catholic school from Pri 1, I never felt worthy of approaching God, there was always guilt and feeling 'fake' for not being a good Christian. So whatever one might say about the teachings of New Creation's Pastor Prince, for me personally, his emphasis on the message of Grace has left a deep impact on me, even though I attended church at the Rock sporadically and over only some years.

If I can love my children so much and always want the best for them, how much more is the love of our Father, so of course I expect good things from Him. It's the knowledge that God loves me no matter what, that makes me want to do things that please Him. Not because of fear. So hopefully, our kids too will learn to do the same with our unconditional love for them, not because they fear us. That said, we'll still need to do our job as parents by correcting/rebuking our kids when they do things that are wrong, that's why I call it training, not caning :)

Another concept I like is that of a Love Bank. If a child's Love Bank has constant deposits, once in a while, we can make some withdrawals (scolding, screaming etc). After withdrawals, need to deposit back lah; there's no overdraft facility! And no going on credit. So although I have my monster mummy moments, I always make sure to grab the kids afterwards and explain the reasons for my actions, shower them with kisses and hugs, and reassure them of my continued love. Sometimes, I even apologise *gasp*.

Windy said...


monlim said...

Well said, Lilian!

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