I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a statement by my friend Tom Revak – “Fear is the ultimate cancer in any relationship.” It resonated with me and seems to be a descriptor of so much that I am observing and feeling these days.
Last night I was sitting at a restaurant with my two girls. For some reason the topic of grounding as a discipline method came up. One of my girls asked a very astute question. “Mom, with kids, does it work better to scare them with a punishment or is it better to get them to do things because of a good relationship?” She doesn't consciously know this, but that question pretty much sums up one of the core paradigm shifts for me as a parent.
As is often the case these days, I had to begin my answer with this formula: “With your brothers, I did “x,” but now I believe it is better to do “y.“ So I answered her honestly, “Well I have tried both. With your brothers, I used a lot more punishment, but with you, I have come to believe that a strong, connected relationship is a healthier and more effective way to go.” She asked a follow-up question. “Would you ever ground me?” This led to a discussion on natural consequences and when grounding might fall in this category.
As I look at the weekend headlines, instilling fear toward people seems to be one tactic of our new president, particularly on the topic of refugees and others of Muslim faith. Trump’s argument for an immediate immigration freeze from a number of Middle East countries (with the very suspicious absence of several countries that have in fact been a source for terrorists BUT also are places where Trump has significant business investments) is full of scare mongering rhetoric. He appeals to our base level fears of protection and survival.
Unless we are of Native American descent, we are all from a line of refugees and foreigners from “other places.” Over and over and over again, within the Christian scriptures is the call to care for orphans, widows, and foreigners, aka strangers or refugees. They are portrayed as the most vulnerable within society. I feel sad and angry that many of the loudest religious voices in our country are silent or dismissive of this call. Thankfully, others are speaking up.
I agree with my friend Tom that “fear is the ultimate cancer in any relationship.” It is true in the parent/child arena as well as any other human interaction. We can shift the fear dynamic as we take time to listen to the stories and dreams of people different from ourselves. We can transform a relationship within our family when we do the same. When any authority figure uses fear tactics to try and control or dominate, relationships suffer.
As both a parent and a political being in today’s world, one of my go to verses is this one from I John: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Though creating fear is sometimes expedient and effective for a while, it takes a lot more courage and strength to pursue the path of love. I choose love in both parenting and political perspective. I hope that there are many others who desire to join me.