This is Part 1 of 5 parts focusing on the Heart of the Issue in relating to people.
When my daughter, Katy, was a little three-year-old girl, I learned an important parenting lesson from my wife. In the winter time, when it was time to go to church, I told Katy, you need to put your coat on. She was (and is) a very bright gal, but on that day, she was very slow to put on her coat. She was still playing with her dolls and standing by the door ready to walk through the snow in order to get into the car. I thought I would reason with her, so I said, “Katy, it’s cold outside, so don’t you think you should put on your coat?” She didn’t seem to budge in the “right” direction and I like to be timely to church! I was thinking, we need a little behavioral understanding, so we can all get along.
Behavioral Change is only the Beginning
Yet my wife was much wiser and grabbed Katy’s coat, stuck one arm in one sleeve of the coat and then stuck the other arm in the other sleeve. She looked at me and said, “Three-year-olds don’t always understand reason and you have to make the choice for them.” At three-years-old, children are just learning to reason and sometimes parents have to make the choice for them. I realized it didn’t matter how much I reasoned with Katy, I wasn’t going to influence her behavior by just talking to her. At that age, parents do need to make those proactive decisions while the child is learning.
However, as a child progresses beyond five –years-old, he or she can begin reasoning at the heart level and a wise parent will begin discipling the child from the heart rather than merely impose behavioral changes. So how do you know the difference between behavioral change and reaching the heart for real change?
I can change a dog’s behavior by means of a variety of “dog-training” techniques. And while I might be able to get the dog to come, sit or lie down, I haven’t changed the heart one bit. The same is true for people. If I change the behavior, I will have it better for me, but I may not have made it any better for the person one bit. In fact, I may have made the person worse, because he is now doing the right thing, but without any thought behind it. In actuality, if I haven’t made the heart change, if the person isn’t making the decision by faith, then I have made the person worse than before. He will depend the ability of his flesh to get “the job done,” rather than on the power of the Holy Spirit to please the heavenly Father.
Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.