"Anyone who curses father and mother
extinguishes light and exists benighted."
Proverbs 20:20 (The Message)
Other translations use the word "insults" in place of "curses". Let's see what all these words mean:
- Curses: 1. the expression of a wish that misfortune, evil, doom, etc befall a person, group, etc. 2. a profane oath; curse word; 3. the cause of evil, misfortune or trouble.
- Insults: 1. to treat or speak to insolently or with contemptuous rudeness; affront 2. to affect as an affront; offend or demean 3. to attack; assault 4. to behave with insolent triumph; exult contemptuously 5. an insolent or contemptuously rude action or remark; affront
- Insolent: 1. boldly rude or disrespectful
- Contemptuous: 1. showing or expressing contempt or disdain; scornful
- Affront: 1. a personally offensive act or word; deliberate act or display of disrespect; intentional slight; insult 2. an offense to one's dignity or self-respect
- Extinguish: 1. to put out 2. to put an end to or bring to an end; wipe out of existence; annihilate
- Benighted: intellectually or morally ignorant; overtaken by darkness
I have a child who blurts out hurtful things when they get in trouble. This child often tells us that they hate us and sometimes we even get cursed at. In the past, I have taken this quite personally - often reacting in anger to the cutting remarks that get thrown at me. Sometimes I even get physically attacked by this child. It is a sign of my own humanity that I react with anger during these times.
However, tonight while I was reading this verse and looking up what some of the words meant it hit me: Sure, it's easy to get angry when we feel attacked or disrespected. But, this verse tells us that our children's Light is extinguished and they exist in darkness when they do these things. Anger, while justified, is the wrong reaction to this happening! Our hearts ought to be breaking for our children when they act this way towards us!
Looking back on moments in our lives when one of our children has insulted us and seeing past the anger and hurt that I feel - both of which cause us to focus on ourselves and not on the fact that our child is lost, at that moment - I can see that my child is living in darkness when this happens. For days, this child will separate themselves from the family. Sitting in their room harboring bitterness in their heart. There is no room for the Light of God when this child is in this mode. This child is existing in darkness. As this child's parent, I need to fight for this child to come back to God.
Does this mean I ignore the insults and disrespect? Not at all. Our children need to learn how to treat people with mature respect despite how they feel in the moment. But, when I react in anger I am only adding fuel to the fire. We experienced a situation this week where this child acted like I described above. Instead of hounding this child, demanding respect and good attitudes, I allowed this child to stay in their room. If this child came out and copped an attitude, I'd send this child to their room again - if it was meal time, this child got a peanut butter sandwich and a banana. I didn't allow this child to continue to mistreat me - but I also didn't respond in anger.
So, how did I respond? Well, I kept my mouth shut (with much help from my wonderful husband) and turned to the Psalms, as well as to my dear friends - asking them to be in prayer for us. Did it fix everything? No. However, this child came to us - on their own - and sought our forgiveness for how this child was treating us. We forgave this child immediately and showered them with unconditional love. This child needs to know the love of God, so just as God forgives us when we come back to Him, just as He loves us with no strings attached, we must do the same for our children.
Sure, our children can really hurt us with their words and actions. But, are we going to demonstrate to them the love of Christ or are we going to teach them that "getting even" is the way to handle disrespect from others? In the past, I have shown a somewhat vindictive spirit when my children have caused me pain. But, this verse has convicted me that I need to feel sadness when my children mistreat me and I need to turn to the Lord to help bring them back into the Light.