Two of your children are fighting in the other room. You’re not even sure what started it. You heard it start with a little whine, and your ears perked up.
What was once a little whimper has dissolved into a yelling match, which is now culminating in a physical altercation. It all happened so quickly that you didn’t even have time to get in there and stop it before it happened.
You’ve arrived in the room. Everyone’s crying. You know what happens next – the shouting begins and the stories flow.
“She hit me with -”
“Well he pushed me!”
“Well that’s ‘cuz you wouldn’t let me -”
“Well ‘cuz you wouldn’t let me -”
“Yes huh I did! But you -”
Thank goodness the grownup has arrived! It’s all chaos and his word against hers! Neither cares what the other has to say because they have been wronged and they need it to be made right. NOW. But don’t worry. The grownup will fix it.
You make sure that each child gets to tell their story. How did it start? What happened next? How did that make you feel? Do you see how that made your sister feel? I think your brother was angry that you wouldn’t let him have a turn. With a grownup to referee, everyone gets their turn to speak! Name calling, interrupting, and lying all get squashed immediately. That’s not how we solve a problem.
So can I ask this quick question?
When are the grownups going to show up for the grownups?
Here’s the thing, you guys. I’m seeing small altercations all over the place. Internet trolling. Political debates on Facebook (fix it, Jesus!). Mean and judgy moms at the park. Snarky neighbors.
Where did all the reasonable grownups go? The anarchy of this playroom has spun out of control!!
Our children are watching how we deal with conflict. They’re hearing how we talk about people we don’t like or whose politics we don’t like. They know exactly how we react in the car, to people at work, to our spouses.
I can tell you that what I’m seeing is not the conflict resolution we teach in the playroom – listening to each other air both sides of the story, considering how each other feels, apologizing for miscommunication.
It’s getting exhausting, isn’t it? Jockeying for position? Commenting each other to death? Trying to argue everyone else onto your side?
I have so many opinions. I have so many beliefs that I hold dear. I have experience that I would love to share to help you avoid unnecessary pain and hardship. I have encouragement I’d love to speak into the depths of your heartache.
Do you care about any of that if I’m berating or belittling you while I offer it to you? Do you want to hear what I have to say if all I’m doing is shouting at you without stopping to listen to what you have to say or how you feel?
It’s been bad for a while, but I think we can all agree that 2016 stung pretty badly. It hurt us all at some point, for some reason. It hurt our hearts as moms, as women, as friends, as people. But the problem is that it hurt, and then everyone started lashing out because of their pain. The altercation that started out as not sharing has exploded into biting and hitting.
Turns out…the playroom is a hot mess. It’s starting to look like the storm isn’t even close to passing and the grownups are nowhere to be found!
There is some good news, though. We do know how to do this. The grownups trained us by example before. It’s just up to us to make the choice to brace ourselves, brave the melee, and start doing what we have been taught to do – foster peace.
Jesus said that we can do this. We’re supposed to do this. This is the work we have been given.
Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . (1 Corinthians 6:4, MSG)
For most of us, we aren’t given huge social media platforms, or a microphone, or a book deal, or a television hosting gig. Instead, we’re given families, jobs, churches, friends, schools. For us, it starts with what we do have. In our homes and families, in our cars and workplaces. Anonymously on social media (for the love of all sanity, please on social media!) and face-to-face on the street. At the park and in the pick-up line. At church.
Listen with an open heart and without counting the seconds until you can respond. Encourage rather than roll your eyes. Consider that behind all of these issues are actual living, breathing, feeling people – people loved by God. Assume the best and give the benefit of the doubt. Find the good in people. Be passionately for people – not against them.
Now is the time to be peacemakers. To be the Spartans we want our children to be – people who think outside of ourselves.
It starts small, and it starts with us. People are watching…
photo credit: Marcus Spiske