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Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

SCHIZOPHRENIADo You Hear What I Hear?

DEMENTIA: I Think I’ll Be Home For Christmas

MANIC: Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Busses and Trucks and Trees and Fire Hydrants and…

PARANOID: Santa Claus Is Coming To Get Me

PERSONALITY DISORDER: You Better Watch Out, I’m Gonna Cry, I’m Gonna Pout, Maybe I’ll Tell You Why

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER: Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, …….. (better start again)

PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE PERSONALITY: On The First Day of Christmas My True Love Gave To Me (and then took it all away)

BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER: Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire.

[author unknown]

Christmas Drinks Humor

Christmas Drinks Humor

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The Guilted Parent

Life offers us very few guarantees. We would like to thing, for instance, that all our efforts at our career would guarantee us success and wealth.  Or, that the time we invest in spiritual pursuits would insure us against troubles and pain in this life.  Or, that the investments we put into the lives of our children would promise us perfect kids who become perfect adults and in return raise perfect grand kids.  But there are no guarantees.

The problem lies in our constant search for those guarantees. We want a secret formula: put this into your life or your kids and this will be the result.  We want magic talismans: quote this Bible verse, pray this prayer, do these spiritual things and this will be what you see.  So, we run from book to book, conference to conference, in an effort to find the magic bullet that will kill our fears about the future.  While self-education and awareness is wonderful, there is no formula, talisman or bullet that will guarantee us against failure and disappointment.

No where is this more evident than in the frantic efforts of many Christian parents. Believing that a child enters the world tabula rasa (with a clean slate) upon which the parent can determine the outcome of a child, these parents go through all sorts of spiritual and mental contortions to do so.  The problem arises when a child does not “turn out” as expected.  This places a considerable amount of guilt upon the parent (and sometimes the child as well).  The rest of the Christian community looks upon the wayward or prodigal child and blames the parent for doing something wrong or not doing something right.  There is not a lot of grace or mercy available for parent and child.

It is faulty think that says the parent can always produce the child. It is a lie that guilts a parenting into believing that good “christian” parenting will produce godly children.   There are instances that we are all aware of where even under the best parenting and spiritual guidance a child has self-determined to go his or her own way completely contrary to how they were raised.  At the same time, there are plenty of instances where a child has come through and come out of a background that is filled with all kinds of social and spiritual problems and obstacles to be a success materially and spiritually.  This defies the psychological determinism that plagues so much of our Christian philosophy and theology about parenting and families.

It is the lie of psychological – or spiritual, in this case – determinism that has produced all the Christian formulas and programs available today. They each offer their own guarantees to raising successful kids as if child-rearing and child-training were a trouble-free, risk free endeavor.  In a B.F. Skinner-like approach, a Christian parent can produce godly children as if they were planting a garden or training a family pet.  One only needs to throw in a few well-placed Bible verses.

Thus, Christendom has produced the guilted parent; an impossible weight of legalism towards the parent-child relationship. It is as if the Bible was a parenting manual filled with formulas and spiritual laws that, if carefully followed just right, would produce guaranteed outcomes.  Thus, if the child did not turn out “right,” then it can only mean that the parent screwed up somewhere and did not follow exactly the prescribed formula or spiritual law.  The guilted parent syndrome is not helped by the “testimonies” of successful and winning parents who have raised obedient, respectful, compliant children who live faithful Christian lives with no missteps or disappointments.

Edsel, Cool Desert Nights, Richland, Washington, June 2010

Edsel, Cool Desert Nights, Richland, Washington, June 2010 ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

I have known parents who have carefully read and faithfully followed all the advice of Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family. Yet, despite all their frantic and careful studies, they had a child(ren) who seemed determined to live a life completely opposite of their parents’ values and lifestyle.  I have other friends who systematically followed all of the rules from Growing Families International and their Growing Kids God’s Way curriculum with seeming success, until one of their children did not seem to respond to their carefully crafted efforts.  Both of these parents were at a loss and suffered under a load of guilt and shame for the outcome of their kids.

It is interesting to note that even in Scripture, some of the most successful people of God were followed by ungodly children. At the same time, some of the most wicked characters in the Bible produced righteous children who did incredible things for God.  Finally, if one were to measure God’s success as a successful heavenly Father based upon the actions and activities of all of his children, by the measurement of the material commonly marketed to Christian parents today, he would be a failure!

This has been our experience within my family. My wife, Kelly, and I are well-educated (both with Masters Degrees).  We have read the books, watched the videos and listened to the speakers.  Despite having our home full of books and constantly reading to our children, we have two children out of our four who had a very hard time learning to read and so don’t like to read.  Imagine this from a child who has a father with a personal library that numbers over 3,000 volumes.  Doesn’t make sense according to the formula we were given about helping our children become “readers.”

We also have always been involved in church, spiritual pursuits and openly talked about spiritual things with our children. We read the Bible, prayed around the dinner table, regularly included prayer for missionaries and surrounded our lives with very spiritual people.  We have not done this perfectly, but we have done it to the best of our capability and knowledge we had at the time.  Nevertheless, we have one child who has chosen to live a lifestyle with a set of values that are completely contrary to how he was raised.  Again, this doesn’t make any sense according to what we have been told all these years.

As with so much of our modern Christianity, and much of humankind’s approach to God in general, we have reduced life with God to a formula rather than faith. Like the legalistic religious rulers of Jesus’ day, we have made our own set of laws about parenting that are too heavy for many to bear.  We leave those who are not able to perform according to these rule and regulations outside “the ark of safety” to drown in their guilt and shame.  But Jesus came to introduce a different way.

Living according to these “Christian parenting laws” only proves our failure. The apostle Paul reminds us that “the Law brings death” – and that can apply to just about any spiritual law or legalistic religious system.  Only faith in what Christ has accomplished in his death and resurrection can bring life to parents who have children who are spiritually and morally wayward.

  • It is a faith that believes that his grace is sufficient for all our sin and their sin.
  • It is a faith to believe that the Holy Spirit of the risen Christ is still able to work in their lives and return them to the heavenly Father’s household of faith.
  • It is faith that believes that God graceful and merciful intervention can make up for all of my – or anyone’s – parental mistakes and short-comings.
  • It is faith that believes that the spiritual seeds that were planted at one time in a child’s heart will one day mature into a harvest of righteousness despite what fruit or weeds might be apparent there now.
  • It is faith that believes that God’s love as heavenly Father is greater and more abundant than my earthly parental love.
  • It is faith that believes that God accepts me even as a mistake-ridden and faulty parent to my children.
  • It is faith that believes that just as God’s unconditional love accepts and embraces me; it will also accept and embrace my child no matter where they may be on their own spiritual journey.
  • It is faith that believes that the same God who is our righteous and holy judge is also our merciful and loving counselor.

It is time to set the guilted parent free. It is time to replace formulas with faith.  It is time to reject psychological and spiritual determinism with a trust in God’s power to do what we ourselves cannot guarantee; which is children who worship and serve him.  Let the guilted parent be set free.

These thoughts came about as I finished reading “The Myth of the Perfect Parent” by Leslie Leyland Fields in Christianity Today (January 2010, Vol. 54, No. 1).  There is a follow-up interview with Donald Ratcliff by Katelyn Beaty that the reader may want to see.  Some of the terminology and ideas that are in my Blog came from Leslie Fields article.  Follow the link to see the complete article.

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

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Self-actualization is the predominant god of our American culture. It is nothing new to humanity.  In fact, it has roots in humanity’s fall in the Garden of Eden.  The idea was made prominent in modern psychology and sociology by Abraham Maslow.  His famous quote, “What a man can be, he must be.  This need we call self-actualization” is taught in every psychology, sociology, and educational course.  It is a cornerstone idea of our contemporary world.

Kurt Goldstein (an organismic theorist) was the first to introduce the idea that every person strives to realize his or her or potential. His idea was that this overpowering urge was the master motive for every human desire.  In fact, he believed it to be the only true motive.  All other motives a person may have were simply manifestations of the desire for self-actualization. “Goldstein defined self-actualization as a driving life force that will ultimately lead to maximizing one’s abilities and determine the path of one’s life” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self_actualization).

Interestingly, Kurt Goldstein’s book was titled “The Organism: A Holistic Approach to Biology Derived from Pathological Data in Man”. Notice the part about “derived from the pathological data in man“.  Studying human pathology and deviancy certainly will give insights into the motivations of human behavior.  One has to wonder, however, if it is a good baseline with which to start.  That aside, Abraham Maslow broadened Goldstein’s idea and popularized it.  Now it is as much of our cultural ethos as religion and politics.

What started out as an identifier for human motivations has come to be considered a human right of every individual regardless of consequences or deviancy or even pathological behavior.  We are told that we will never be happy until we attain self-actualization, which has come to mean personal fulfillment and happiness at whatever cost.  I wonder what Goldstein and Maslow would think of where our popular culture has taken their ideas.  Did they even foresee the possibility of these unintended consequences to their studies?

Personal fulfillment and happiness are wonderful things in the right perspective and context. However, when they are twisted to the ends of human pathology or the spiritual fallen nature of humankind one has to wonder how bizarre it all can get.  After all, self-actualization, personal fulfillment, and happiness must assume the good nature and motivation of the human heart.  But what if that human nature is evil and the heart “deceitfully wicked”?  What then?

I cannot speak for any one else, but I know for a fact that many of the things that I have desired in my heart and thought would bring me ultimate happiness and fulfillment would have really destroyed me and my relationships.  It is only by the grace of God that I did not go there and get there or realize self-actualization.  Even those things that seemed good and honest at the time in hindsight now reveal a tragic end had I gone down that path.

Self-actualization seems to be the very thing that the serpent tempted Adam and Eve with in the garden: “Surely you will not die.  You will become like God”.  There is the promise that what they saw and desired truly would not destroy them.  Instead it would fulfill them.  They would reach their hearts’ true desire – self-actualization – to be like their Creator.  Who does not want to be like God?  That would be a good thing, right?  Not that way, it turns out.

In reaching out to consume the fruit of self-actualization they destroyed the thing they desired most – a growing knowledge of their Creator and becoming like their Creator.  The permissible attitude that says, “As long as it makes you happy is all that counts.  As long as you become a fulfilled individual is what is important.  As long as you reach the vision of who you think you can become (self-actualization) you have the right to it”.  This is the bait that appeals to our pride and feels so good to our wounded psyches.

Flamingos Ix Pu Ha', Mexico

Flamingos Ix Pu Ha', Mexico ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2009)

Unfortunately, it is easier to see and point out the deviancy in another’s choices and motivations than our own. Thus, our efforts at self-actualization are permissible where someone else’s are not according to our judgment.  But who is to make that big, final decision.  Many people would say that it is the changing mores of our culture and society.  Therefore, laws should change to reflect the social values of our times.  In other words, what’s outlawed today may be permitted tomorrow to make another group of people happy.  Thus, marijuana may be illegal today, but some day in the future it maybe legalized.  Homosexual marriage may be illegal today, but in the future may be legal.  Multiple marriage partners may be illegal today, but in the future may be legal (it already is in some countries).  Each group, however small, struggling to gain self-actualization, no matter how deviant, has the hopes that someday their behavior will be acceptable and normalized.  In the end, who has the right to refuse anyone from self-actualization?  Apparently, no one.  Not even a divine authority such as God and his Word.

Thus, relativism plays a big part of shaping attitudes toward self-actualization. If there are no absolute values or truths, then there really are no deviant or wrong behaviors.  We really cannot fault pathological human behavior no matter how slight or severe because it is all an attempt to realize what a human being truly can be.  In this world, it is like driving on a road system with no rules or no signs.  You can drive any way you like as long as you don’t kill someone else.  Just honk your horn loud enough to let everyone else around you know that you are there and where you are going.  There is no right way or wrong way to drive on life’s road.  All roads lead to the same end – happiness, fulfillment, and self-actualization.

So, it does not matter the cost or the consequences. Go ahead and get that divorce to be happy.  Go ahead and follow the natural inclinations of a deceitful and wicked heart no matter where it leads.  Go ahead and have sex with anyone as long as you and your partners are fulfilled.  Go ahead and do whatever is necessary to be self-actualized.  In the end, all that matters is that you are happy, fulfilled, and self-actualized.  After all, you are like God.  You know right from wrong and what is really good or evil for yourself.  Go ahead.  Indulge.  Take a bite of this apple.

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2009)

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