A few weeks ago, I found myself trying to convince my six-year-old that she could not walk the mile to swimming lessons with her swimming cap on her head.
“Why not, Mom?” she asked. “Is it because you think people will think I look silly?”
“Well, yes,” I admitted.
“I don’t care if people think I look silly,” was her nonchalant response.
Of course I smiled. And with the smile came the realization that I had overreacted. Again.
The same sin in my heart manifests itself in a myriad of different masks – but the substance from which the masks are formed is the same. They are all moulded from a plaster called pride.
I want others to think well of me, to be impressed with my parenting skills, to compliment my children’s behavior.
How many times have I scolded my nine-year-old because his shirt was not tucked in, or reprimanded my four-year-old for not wiping the toothpaste off his face like I had asked him to? Tidy appearances are not unbiblical, but what is my motive for such standards? Truthfully, it is to make a good impression on others. At its root is the desire to please people.
If my daughter is desperate to go to church so she can learn more about Jesus, does God care whether her socks match? 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”
My primary concern should not be what other people think of me or my children, but whether my heart is right with God.
Biblically speaking, I should not place a desire to please and impress others over and above my desire to please my King. I’ve been convicted by Galatians 1:10 – “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 2:4-5 are equally convicting: “…We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.”
When my daughter revealed her indifference toward the opinion of others, part of me was glad that I have not yet scarred her completely with my sinful tendency to want to please people. Another part of me wondered how long it will take before her child-like naivety wears off and she becomes more aware of peer pressure and wanting to fit in.
With this in mind, I ask myself: “How can I, as a parent, be proactive and help to protect my children from succumbing to the wants of society as I am so programmed to do?”
For a start, I can help them by ensuring that they are raised with a biblical view of themselves.
Each one of us is a wretched sinner, utterly helpless to do or be anything good without the help of the Holy Spirit. Having said that, it is astounding to think we have been made by God in His image. He Himself knitted us together, He knew us before we were even conceived, His hand formed us and shaped us exactly how He wanted us to be.
If I truly believed that, I would not sigh with such agitation on Sunday mornings when my kids drip syrup onto their church clothes. If I really believed that, I would happily let my daughter walk in public with a swimming cap on her head, as long as her heart is right with God.
By Kate Motaung