I love books. Anytime I perceive a problem that needs fixing, I buy a new book. One of my latest reads has been a parenting book called Say Goodbye to Whining,Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. The title is catchy and cutesy, but it could more appropriately (and probably far less market-ably) be called Honor-Based Parenting.
The authors’ basic premise is that what our homes, lives, and communities need is more of Romans 12:10,
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;
give preference to one another in honor.”
Honor is essentially treating someone as a person of value, giving preference to their needs over one’s own. It’s a basic Christian principle that can transform our homes. Parents showing honor to children; children showing honor to parents and siblings; spouses showing honor to one another; the family showing honor to the outside world. It’s simple, but challenging. We all want our own way. Honoring others doesn't come naturally.
As I read this book, I meditated on the concept of honor. I looked for examples in everyday life. I sought to evaluate my words and my parenting in light of this one crucial concept. I realized that, in our society, honor- along with its counterparts, politeness, respect, and self-sacrifice- isn’t valued very highly in our daily lives. Modern society encourages individuality and self-seeking. The younger generation focuses on looking out for number one.
And then, one day, I stood in line. It was a long line. All of the parents were lining up to check in at the school to see our fourth graders in a musical. We all had the same goal- getting signed in, finding a seat, and watching our adorable children.
No one likes waiting. Deep down, we are all two year olds. We want what we want when we want it, and we don’t want to take turns. But we’re adults, so we all stood in line.
At least, that’s what I thought would happen. After a couple of minutes, I realized that some people believed that they had a greater urgency than all of the other people waiting in line. THEY CUT! Apparently, they skipped kindergarten and hadn’t learned that that was rude. I watched carefully to see which of these very important individuals might have a legitimate reason to skip ahead. Perhaps they were volunteering to help with the musical. No, they were parents, just like me, and to compound the rudeness, they, unlike me, did not have little ones in tow.
I continued my observations, wondering if basic politeness had given way to “every man for himself.” (In fairness to men, the “cutters” were women.) And with this on my mind, I finally made my way up to the sign-in table. I was planning to take Evan, my fourth grader, out of school immediately after the musical, so I needed to sign him out. As I picked up the pen to write his name down, one of the cutters came around to the back of the table. Her hand shot out toward mine.
“Can I have that pen?”
My first instinct, responding to the authoritative tone, was to hand over the pen. But, no. I took a deep breath, and looked up at her and smiled, saying in my sweetest voice,
“I’d be happy to give you the pen. I’m not quite finished with it yet.”
She looked at me askance, “Oh.” She didn’t look embarrassed, just vaguely shocked. It was very obvious that the fact that I was using the pen hadn’t even entered her mind. She needed a pen. I had one. Clearly I needed to give the pen to her.
Entitled. She felt entitled. She was in a hurry. She didn’t like waiting.
Honor would have allowed her to see that everyone else felt exactly as she did. Honor would have caused her, at the very least, to wait her turn. At its best, honor would have allowed her to give way to the elderly grandparents who were standing behind her.
Life is better if it’s lived with honor. That's something I want to practice. That’s something I need to show my children.