“Don’t copy the behavior or customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NLT)
I spent time with a friend this weekend that I consider to be a mentor. She’s a few years ahead of me on this mothering journey and often, without even knowing it, shares nuggets of wisdom I can tuck away for future use. We sat and chatted about our daughters and she told me some of the questions she likes to ask at the end of each day.
When she said, “who did you sit with at lunch today?” I smiled, feeling validated because this is the first question out of my mouth most days as my kids re-enter their safe place at home.
She said it’s imperative to understand our kids’ relationships. . .to earn their trust by being interested in who they spend time with. I ask this question myself to take note of friend connections and patterns. It also prompts my girl to fill me in on any drama taking place in her sphere.
By placing value on the relationships in my daughter’s (and my son’s) life, even over their academics or other interests, I hope I’m sending the message that people matter. That more important than anything we may ever accomplish is how we treat people and whether or not we know how to be a good friend.
I love this quote by Maya Angelou – “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I want this perspective to guide me as I teach my children to love counter-culture.
This year we’ve taken a close look at what it means to raise our kids to be IN the world but not OF it. We began with establishing their relationship with Jesus and then addressed the power of the mind in guiding their actions. Then this summer we tackled the subject of identity to get our children ready to go back to school with foundational truths on which to stand.
Our next step in raising kids to be IN the world but not OF it, is to teach and train them to love well. The world would like our kids to grow up believing if they want to thrive, it’s every man for himself. With constant pressures to get ahead and stay ahead, many children develop a single-minded attitude in which they strive to find their way to the head of the pack, leaving damaged relationships in their wake.
But Jesus says in John 13:34-35, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
All the faith-building and training and obedience and right living means nothing if we don’t know how to love well. We’re reminded in 1 Corinthians 13 (The Love Chapter) that without love, everything else is pointless, distracting and without value.
But our kids just want to be noticed and liked and popular. Our culture has set them up to believe they must draw attention to themselves no matter the cost. Living and loving counter-culture, according to God’s plan, goes against every message they encounter daily.
Several years ago while reading the well-known verse Proverbs 3:5-6, I stumbled upon a promise that I like to call “the popularity principle.” Just a few verses back from this one that many can recite on request, is this gem of instruction that I believe all kids need to know.
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4
This promise comes before another that assures direction and right living. Yet before the writer of wisdom asks us to trust, he instructs us to love with faithful commitment that is so much a part of us, it’s bound around our neck and written on our heart.
It’s hard for children to understand the gravity of this verse. But when we, as parents, model it for them and continue to point them towards this truth as they mature, their hearts will be etched with a desire to love differently and extravagantly, going against the trends they see in their sphere.
We are promised here in the Word that when we do this, we will win favor with not only our audience of One, but with all those we come into contact with. And more valuable than that favor is the good name with which we’ll be known and admired.
So how do we do this? First, we believe the principle for ourselves. Because let’s be honest, you don’t have to be 13 to struggle with the desire to be known and liked. The need is a part of every soul, which is why God breathed this promise into the Word.
Our children need us to lead the way in loving counter-culture. We can do this simply by establishing values to guide our interactions in real life and online. I encourage you to sit down as a family and determine what values you want to guide your relationships. Your list may look a bit different but you can use this one to get started.
In Real Life:
- If it isn’t kind, productive or uplifting, don’t say it.
- Put others first.
- Love others for who they are not what they can do for you.
- Be inclusive. Be on the lookout for those who are hurting and reach out.
- Your friends are more important than your “things.” (physical things and interests)
- Be a cheerleader. Look for the good in others and call it out.
- Social media changes often. Don’t let something so weak and fleeting define you.
- Remember: not everything needs to be shared.
- If your post will hurt someone in any way, delete it.
- Never betray a friend’s trust, but especially in a public arena.
- Your reputation is more important than your social media status.
- Use social media for good; to lift others up and share positive messages.
In every sphere. . .Be a Light:
- Pay attention and look for those who are hurting; who need the light of love you carry.
- Be a source of joy and positivity; avoid negative messages at all costs.
- The golden rule is golden because it shines light: treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s that simple.
- Point people to Jesus.
I think it was Kid President who coined this popular phrase, “Be somebody who makes everybody feel like somebody.”
I can’t think of a better thing to be known for. I know it might take a while for our children to value being known as someone who lives counter-culture, but I find joy in my greatest assignment as a parent – teaching them to love well.