My six-year-old loves “what if” questions.
Tonight, she shared a rather regular one – “What if you don’t have wisdom teeth?”
We have discussed this question so many times, but I know it’s her way of saying she’s interested in teeth. And when she’s interested in a topic, I answer her questions and look things up that help her make connections.
She’s very much like me in this respect. I often find myself hanging out with Google asking, “I wonder…?”
These “what ifs” stretch our imaginations and our knowledge. These questions are the pathways to connections in our minds.
But the ugly “what ifs” that stem from insecurity are demons in disguise. They want to feast on all the good things we think and see and do.
These questions can take over a good night’s sleep or a person’s whole world.
In my last post, I explored my way of dealing with “what ifs” of the negative kind. I try to view them through the fruits of the Spirit. These fruits characterize where God wants us to live.
Paul tells us in Romans 8:6, “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
So, in today’s post, I’m exploring my approach to the relationships affected by my “what ifs?”
Are my questions allowing me to see the good in people and situations?
Doubts stem from a place of insecurity. I know that I can go to this place very easily if I start looking at the things I don’t like about myself, my husband or just other people in general.
Insecurity brings us to a place of contempt when we allow it to sneak into our minds. When we allow our joy to get neglected, insecurity has fertile ground to grow in and can destroy our confidence and peace.
When we neglect caring for our basic needs (prayer, eating right, sleeping enough, exercising, getting enough sunshine, etc.), we can begin to grow ragged. Our nerves fray. Our resolve to follow Christ’s example becomes a distant thought.
In my case, it actually becomes a point of guilt. I’m not doing enough. I’m not praying enough. I’m not sharing enough of (or any of) the love and grace of Jesus with my family or the world.
The thing is, that love and grace starts with me.
How can I share something with someone else that I don’t allow myself to experience?
I liken this attitude to someone who teaches a subject, but they haven’t lived it.
They haven’t failed at it and learned hard lessons from it. They haven’t experienced the joy of a breakthrough that comes from overcoming seemingly impossible stakes. That leads to my next question.
Are my questions coming from a place of kindness?
Kindness is hard when there are tough subjects to address.
When the bank account isn’t adding up or the calendars are overflowing or your spouse did something stupid, it’s easy to break out a case of the “what ifs?”
Truth: Money discussions are the root of so many marital arguments. There’s not much on Earth that makes people more selfish than money. It’s a necessary evil, but it has destroyed many a happy home.
So, what if we approach money talks with a sense of urgency to be kind?
I start off this way. I want the discussion to go well. Sure, there are going to be some uncomfortable moments, but unkind words don’t have to come out.
Words and thoughts don’t have to turn an uncomfortable topic into permanent scars.
But the venom comes out faster than a viper if we’re not ready for it.
This topic needs to be covered in prayer. I’ve learned that the hard way. I’ve said so many unkind things that I want to shove back into my big mouth.
The bottom line on money or any electric topic is that in order for it to be kind, we have to start with prayer. Then we have to make the decision to be kind, no matter what.
Am I taking the “me” agenda out of the “what if?”
I’ve struggled with selfishness my whole life. It’s a little pet sin I don’t like to admit is around. Kind of like the cat you only see once in a while. But it’s there ready to pounce at the right moment.
When I go into a conversation with a “me focus,” words I’d like to stuff back in are going to fly. My temper heats up quick. And I’m an excellent flame thrower.
I can spit out words of hurt faster than I can think of them. That’s dangerous.
This type of reaction comes from not fully listening. Sure, I listen, but I listen for my entry into the argument. I often throw out a “what if?” that’s loaded with contempt.
Where does this parlor trick come from? It comes from that insatiable desire to be right.
Oh, I love to be right. It’s as delicious as a caramel sundae.
But the aftermath of being right is devastating. I become overwhelmed with guilt. I look at the muck I just raked in from the past. I often have to repair a bridge that really wants to be burned.
So, how do we overcome selfishness? The need to be right?
We have to be willing to walk away from the being right. We have to be willing to consider the other person’s point of view. We have to stay kind and if tempers flare, it’s time to take a break.
Another thought is that it’s ok not to agree 100%. But you have to find some common ground to stand on. It may not be the prettiest piece of property, but it’s a place to start. It’s a place to grow.
Am I approaching my loved ones (or anyone) with gentleness and forbearance?
My son is a recovering biter. He’s also a recovering pincher, hitter and hair puller. He does these things to get my attention mostly.
However, there’s nothing more shocking than getting a tiny, sharp bite on the inside of your leg while washing dishes. I wanted to scream every.single.time.
I really struggled with what to do about this behavior. And the answer is, “It depends.”
Why he did it was usually because he wanted attention or couldn’t express frustration properly.
When he hits or bites now (rare), it’s usually when he’s tired or needing to connect with Momma.
After a lot of research and talking to other moms, I’ve learned that this is an age-appropriate behavior. It’s not an appropriate behavior anytime, but for age 2, it’s normal. This knowledge gave me a great introduction to forbearance.
The key to curbing negative behaviors like biting or hitting is to address them immediately and repeatedly.
The method is simple. But the reaction is a trained one. I started with a quick self-reminder of “This too shall pass” and a little investigation for the need he wants fulfilled.
I didn’t see much fruit until about two weeks ago. Man Cub finally learned what “it hurts” means. That was a huge breakthrough.
But if you’d asked me two months ago if I ever thought he would grasp that concept, I’d say “I don’t know. Maybe.”
But I looked to his need of forbearance. He needed me to understand today what he didn’t understand with gentleness and a look to later maturity.
So, as frustrating as it was, I took my little biter into my arms and gently but firmly told him, “Biting hurts momma. I don’t like it when you bite me. Let’s go read a book or get a snack.”
And two months later, he started saying, “It hurts?” And after about five bites with his understanding unearthed, the biting disappeared.
Forbearance and gentleness matter so much to our relationships. If we’re not wiling to bear with them with gentleness and understanding, what example are we setting?
Before I let the “What ifs?” of a situation or a reaction get cloaked by insecurity, I need to think about the outcomes of maturity, more information or a new perspective. Focusing on the end of my time in the trenches gives me a level head to work with when I’m planting seeds with my words and actions.
How do you let the “what ifs” affect your relationships? I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.