Families today are surrounded by a culture of condemnation, judgment and death. It is a moral climate in which vice is celebrated above virtue and deceit above honesty, and self-interest reigns over the needs of others. Today’s children are growing up in this type of world and that condition begs the question:
How can a mother and father create a life-giving home environment while living in a culture that is saturated with death thoughts?
A life-giving home environment reflects an intentional lifestyle, cultivated by parents whose training is guided by the life-giving character of God, while avoiding language, attitudes, and behaviors that are contrary to His character. One might read this definition and conclude that it is an easily achievable task. We wish it were that easy. We can assure you it is not!
Creating and sustaining a life-giving home environment is not something one adds to their everyday parenting, like seasoning is added to a recipe. Rather, it is cultivated from thoughts that guide a range of choices.
The Way of Life
For those committed to a God-centered ideal, no truth carries greater value than the declarative phrase, “In the beginning, God created” (Genesis 1:1a). Life exists because God exists, for He is the source of all life.
Yet, while life is everywhere, so also is the influence of death. Here, we are not speaking of the physical death that comes at the end of life, but rather the prevailing influence flowing out from a culture of death that permeates the world’s system of thought. The sounds and images of death are all around us. They saturate the airwaves. We read them in the media, hear them in our schools and around the neighborhood, and sometimes they even take up residence in our churches. This “life versus death” tension has been around from the beginning of time and will continue until the end of time. The good news is that parents can protect their children, if they, themselves, become conversant with life-giving virtue.
Expressions of Life and Death
Life and death messages are expressed correspondingly through virtue and vice. The character of God reflects total virtue, and virtue carries the DNA of Life—God’s life. Virtuous words communicate worth and potential; they promote beauty and life, because they connect back to the source of life. When we accent virtue in thought, deed, and speech, we are propagating the life message.
There is no vice in God; and true Christ-followers are under no condemnation (see Romans 8:1). Vice words and self-condemning thoughts flow out of the culture of death. They are common words and patterns of thinking that speak to failure, corruption, false judgment, and defeat. They are accusatory words and speak of a person as they are, and not what they can be.
When parents draw their thought lives and vocabulary from the culture of death, they are reinforcing in the mind of the child the validity of the death icons. So instead of pointing children in the direction of life, where children come under the umbrella of God’s protection, parents unintentionally shackle their children to the culture of death.
How often do we, as parents, say to our children in times of correction: “You’re so mean to your sister.” “Stop being so jealous.” “That was a dumb thing to do.” “Don’t lie to Mommy.” Those corrective words and concepts flow out of the culture of death. In contrast, life-giving correction reflects the sounds of virtue: “You need to show more kindness to your sister.” “You can learn contentment.” “That was unwise.” “Tell Mommy the truth.” Note the difference. Death words leave children right where you find them, but life words point children to where you want them to go, and what you want them to achieve. Virtue is what you want your children to become conversant with and they will if you, as a parent, accent life-giving virtue in speech, tone, and action.
Be warned. The more the death message is heard, the more it is validated. The more it is validated, the greater are its influences on a child’s thought life. The child who is conversant with the language of death is more susceptible to influences outside of his/her home life. As a result, the child begins to identify with the symbols that reflect the death culture. The death culture becomes the dominant influence. A child’s thought life, actions, and responses are then swayed by the persuasive forces found within the death culture.
Parents, by intent or by neglect, for better or worse, are the greatest influence in shaping a child’s future. Nothing is more persuasive and long-lasting as the impressions gained or lost within the context of the home. That is because children tend to reflect the priorities and values of their home life. What is important to Mom and Dad will become important to their children, and will influence what each child becomes in the future. Don’t let the death culture be the dominant influence in your family. Instead, choose to cultivate and sustain a life-giving environment each day in your home.
Excerpt taken from Protecting the Innocence of Childhood by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo.