Recent discussion in the national news and everywhere I find myself a listener these days reminds me of my freshman year at Kennesaw State, an English class, where the topic of corporal punishment came up and ignited a firestorm replete with raised voices and proud declaration in favor of “whipping kids”. Many things I’ve changed my mind about since then, but this is not one of them.
Dare I say what lies so heavily on my heart begging to be penned? I must…
I’ve read “spare the rod and spoil the child” for myself and heard it quoted until I, no doubt, have a wrinkle in my brain just for those words. I do not disagree nor object to the lesson. However, I beg for context and reason and serious caution over the matter. Why? Because it must be practiced in accordance with ALL of scripture. For example, it must be coupled with “provoke not your children to anger, lest they become discouraged” as well with the warning to those who “cause a little one to stumble” that came from Jesus Himself. Jesus loved the little children. He taught them and cared for them, healed and blessed them. He received them, validating their worth and value to Him.
Consider this, “Raise your children in the nurture and admonition of The Lord.” Nurture and admonition…Let that sink to the core. You will undo many hours of nurturing the moment you strike a child in anger. If you have told your child to be kind and do right, it will be discredited as you wield power and inflict pain in hostility and moments of strife. Your choice…but be informed going in. Before you react reflexively to my words, ask yourself what the result would be if a friend did these things to you? Would it alter the relationship, your trust in them, the esteem you feel in their presence. Of course it would, at least for me. There would be no relationship after that. I don’t have a desire to engage people who would think so little of me as to strike me. Really…
In a culture of violence and abuse, of devaluation of human lives, of bodies and minds and thus, souls, I shudder every time I hear glorification of “whipping.” Let me be clear. There is a continuum to be considered. A swat on the behind to get a child’s attention is NOT the same thing as beating a child and leaving bruises, marks, wounds, however, I want to offer caution here because individuals come into this world uniquely made with different levels of sensitivity and different vulnerabilities. What might not be traumatic to one child, may very well traumatize another. These are facts, folks, worthy of noting and honoring.
I’ve heard people credit their childhood beatings for having what they consider to be a good influence on the outcome of their adulthood. How sad…how grievously sad. If this is the case, though, why do we ever stop using physical punishment as the primary means for shaping behaviors, even beyond childhood? Would these same folks perform better on the job if their supervisors used physical punishment to teach or correct? Apparently, we have lost our ability to reason as a society. We have violence in the home, schools, the workplace, in all areas of our society and yet we not only condone but celebrate and brag about the ugliness that fosters it.
Have you ever looked into the face of a child whose heart is broken and whose body is bruised all from the hands of one who is supposed to protect and provide, to love and to nurture? I’ve looked into many. Years and years of listening to one story after another of confusion, hurt, wounds, and loss resulting in heartache that is all too often passed from one generation to the next out of “loyalty” to family who raised them and “honoring” what was done to them by doing it in turn to the innocents entrusted to their care. Well…I’m just plain sick of it. The ignorance and ugliness that flows from such thinking and behaving must end somewhere. I’ve never been one to be very popular and it looks like I’m destined to remain out on this lonesome limb for the duration, but let the record show that I penned the truth, the truth as I’ve lived it, as I’ve learned it, and as I see it.
A few final thoughts…The body of a child is precious, as precious as the body of any other. Teaching a child to respect his or her body begins with showing respect to that body as the one who is overseeing and teaching care, making them aware of what is important and why it is important. There are some wonderful parents who have taught these values and have at times sparingly spanked their children. Spanked being the appropriate word, not beat, not whipped, not slapped, not punched. OH my word…that this would even have need of clarification seems beyond absurd to me, nevertheless, there is great need for sound judgment, for reason, for truth, and for care.
When I study the fruits of the spirit of Christ: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, I find no possible place for expressions of parental behavior that would inflict wounds on a child. It is not there. These, friends, are the qualities necessary for raising a child in the nurture and admonition of The Lord.
I had a conversation with a family member, one from a couple of generations before me, this morning. He, too, has been troubled by what is being said in defense of those who are in the national spotlight for their chosen forms of disciplining their kids. My heart was encouraged when he said, “that’s what everybody did when I was a kid, and then I did it too, but I can see it’s just not right.” That took courage, maturity, humility, and care. For those words, I will forever be grateful. As long as there is breath, there is hope.