Years ago I was talking with a young mom who had a very strong-willed son. He was only 8 or 9 but was convinced that he knew best about everything. He was bright, active and seemed destined to be a very good lawyer. She is a gentle soul, loves her children immensely and wanted to do the right thing by them. The slightest directive to her son was answered with resistance, argument and petulance. She was truly at her wits end as to how to parent him well. “Wait till your dad gets home” was not the way she wanted to handle it. As she talked, I was struck with a picture.
Growing up in the Midwest many homes had basements, often used as playrooms or dens. At my friend’s house we would play tag, wrestle and, because it was downstairs, we could go all out with noise and activity. One thing we had to watch out for were the poles that were spaced down the middle of the basement. They were steel and did not budge if you ran headlong into one of them. The pole always won. It had to because it was holding up the house.
As I spoke with this young mom I shared with her the picture of the basement poles and how important they were for the sake of the home. The key, though, is that most of these poles were padded with gym mats. When you ran into one of them it did not budge but it also didn’t kill you or crack your head open. The pole still won but it didn’t destroy you in the process.
Whether you are a parent, a spouse, a leader, or whatever role requires you to hold influence over someone else, consider two things: first, the incredible importance of holding to the important ‘rules’ that maintain a safe and healthy family, workplace, church, etc. Secondly, and as important, is the necessity to care for those you lead. You don’t have to bend necessary rules in order to be kind in administering them.
In the roles we hold in life we are sometimes called upon to hold steady to what is most important even when those around us want to get a little crazy. The key is not to bend the rules because someone’s feelings may be hurt or they may get angry at us. Some rules should not be broken. The key is to hold fast to the important things in life but to be strong with kindness. Dallas Willard, author, theologian and philosopher said, “One of the hardest things in the world is to be right and not hurt other people with it.” This applies to our kids, our spouses, our friends and any other human being with whom we do life. Whether you tend to be a steel pole without a cushion or a cushion without a pole, today is a great day to assess your patterns, choose to do better and pray for God’s help to accomplish it. May your house not fall and your people not be broken.
One of my favorite verses and truths in the Bible comes in John 1:14:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus came as the perfect balance of grace and truth. He is both the immovable pole that holds the world and he is encompassed in grace and goodness. His kindness to me as well as the unwavering truth that I can cling to, provide me with the confidence to live my best life even in very difficult times.
A friend once offered me an illustration relating to parenting:
Imagine a child crossing the Golden Gate Bridge alone. And imagine that there are no railings on either side. It is a frightening crossing to be sure. Odds are great that the child would walk across as close to the center of the bridge as possible, away from either edge, walking in fear and without freedom. Now imagine that same child on that same bridge but with railings that move randomly. They move in and out and not only do not protect the child but could actually push them off the side.
This is what it is like for a child, spouse, friend, co-worker, etc. for whom boundaries are either non-existent or unpredictable, when right and wrong are at the whim of another’s mood. It is an insecure and fearful existence. What is ignored one day might bring a tirade the next. Living in the truth creates sound boundaries that make life-giving relationships possible.
Maintaining and teaching these boundaries is the work of grace. As said earlier, it is the padding that keeps us from harming ourselves when we plow into such a boundary. This balance of grace and truth, of strength with kindness, is so important in our relationships of influence. Personally, I find it a very difficult balance to maintain but gratefully I know the One who holds the balance and He holds me. God, help us to live with strength and kindness, filled with your grace and your truth.
Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me.
Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.
Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.
Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!
He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.
1 Kings 3:9
Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.