“[Love] does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” (1 Corinthians 13:5, ESV)
Different translations render 1 Corinthians 13:5 in a variety of ways:
“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (NIV)
“Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.” (KJV)
“Does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,” (NASB)
Just reading the ESV translation is quite straightforward. As a mother, especially in the heat of the moment, it can be tempting to play the parenting card or abuse our authority just because we can. But when we insist on our own way at the cost of all else, we’re neglecting to love.
We tend to put into place rules and boundaries that are not truly Scriptural — parenting laws that the parent must always win the battle, the argument, or the fight. There is a way to lead that does not require oppressive dominance. There is a way to love that does not insist on its own way.
Here are a few ways I’ve seen I can put this verse into action. Some of this is merely personal application, some may apply to others, too.
1. I realize that motherhood is not war, nor a fight against the enemy in which my child is the enemy.
I’ve heard motherhood described in the metaphor of a battle, in which the mother is at odds with the enemy child. Is this not tragically sad — to view this glorious gift of children and calling as mothers into a warfare, in which battle lines are drawn, tactics are devised, and victory is won at all costs?
We are moving forward together as a family. My children often need help in learning to motivate themselves to obey and live healthy, well-balanced lives. My children are sinful image bearers, as am I. On occasion, fear and reward are both possible motivators just like they are for me. Yet, the end goal I am working towards is teaching my children how to self-motivate and/or be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s working within them. Love is patient, kind, and humble as I seek to instruct, nurture, and lead them to that end.
Thus, my hope is that I can avoid sharing with others or my children, “I am the Mommy and I will win this batte!” Maybe the only “battle” is in my own heart — battling the desire to let loose and let ’em have it. Let us win this battle by God’s grace, and love them relentlessly instead.
2. I will strive to treat my children with respect, both long-term and short term.
In motherhood, we are often so filled with frustration and angst that it becomes easy to think that “anything goes” when sharing the struggles we face as mothers. It’s easy to gossip about our children without realizing it. Our children have ears. They know when Mommy is telling a friend a war-story about an “epic battle,” or a grocery store temper tantrum, or simply a personality conflict. They know, and understand. And it hurts.
Love is respect. Respect is circumspect about divulging to others the gory details of our children’s sinfulness.
Often, the struggle and sin is in our own hearts, but we quickly place the weight of our struggle onto our children.
Do we talk about our children negatively in front of them? Or do we describe our own struggles surrounding those of our children’s in a way that respects them as people with many years of life an opportunity ahead of them. There may be a time and place to open up about the particular, specific struggles we face with our individual children; yet, we need to be careful in the way that we use our words.
I will also respect my children by avoiding shaming them, both for present actions and past actions. It sometimes feels good to unload a verbal barrage of shame, but usually it only feels good in the moment, while the damage done goes far into the future.
3. I will avoid arguing for the sake of winning the argument or having the final word.
More important than my being “right” is teaching my children to love and interact with others in a way that is right — kind, loving, and gentle. As a mother, I should model this for my children. Winning an argument against a four-year old may actually be a setback, not a victory. Loving my children — not insisting on my own way — means, perhaps, that I argue less.
4. I will seek to understand that each of my children is unique, not striving to foist my own personal agenda on them, but training them up in the Lord, according to each of their God-given, unique bent (Prov 22:6).
God’s creativity is amazingly showcased in the variety of temperaments, tastes, disposition, personalities, characteristics, and idiosyncrasies of all the billions of people He made. Each of my children is a unique masterpiece of God — created in His likeness, but maybe not in my exact likeness. I want to be sensitive to this, realizing that they are different from me in small, but meaningful ways. I may be tempted to insist that they love reading (like I do), retreating to the quieter space (like I do), and the color blue (like I do), and 75% cacao chocolate (like I do). Instead, I can discover with them their own passions and personalities. Then, I can foster these characteristics rather than insisting on my own way.
When mothering is viewed as a my-way-or-the-highway, it is drained of joy and becomes exhausting. When mothering is, instead, embraced as an opportunity to love by, not insisting on its own way, the joy returns. Even in the harder moments, it can smile at the future, for it knows that mothering is kingdom work.
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