Getting it or acting it?

There are some things I want my kids to learn. Typical stuff. Like not eating with their mouths open, picking up after themselves, that name-calling isn’t a form of “good fun” or excused if the other started it first. You know, simple things boys need help with.

Here’s a dilemma. My kids probably don’t really understand why these things are good to do. Do I really care? Sort of. I patiently tell (lecture, really) them why such and such behavior is a good idea and other behaviors are not. But, in the short run, I’d prefer them to just eat with their mouth closed and say only nice things–whether they get it or not.

I think we can relate this to our own lives. Sometimes we just don’t get WHY we need to do something (like put up with an annoying co-worker) but go about doing what is right. Insight may come later or it may not, but we can take comfort it knowing we honored God with our actions.

Here’s where it gets tougher. What if our loved one acted in a loving way to us but we knew they didn’t really get why it was important, just that we wanted them to do a particular thing (e.g., pick up clothes off the floor, wait to bring complaints up at an agreed upon time, etc.)? Would you care if they acted right but didn’t get they reasons why?


Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, Relationships

3 responses to “Getting it or acting it?

  1. Good question. I think the issue might be how long would this last? Would they eventually learn what it meant to “act right”? Or would they forever just act and never understand the meaning?

    If they would never learn, I think there is probably little value in having them act it out. Isn’t that the definition of hypocrisy? However if they eventually learned what it meant to love, to serve, etc… then just going through the motions would be fine.

  2. D. Stevenson

    It is like extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

    Extrinsic motivation – child works for “A” for the reward. No reward, no work.

    Intrinsic motivation – child loves to learn, the grade is meaningless (except as a requirement of the external world)

    No answer though. Just the same question.

  3. karenestelle

    Do any of us really have completely pure motives? We might act out of a heart of love, but it’s often mixed with a fear of disappointing someone, the logic of knowing how annoyed the other person will be if we don’t follow through, the need for approval… I have a constant lecture series with my children 🙂 about their need to help each other out because we’re a family and we love each other… but truthfully, in the end they behave because the pain of not behaving is not worth it. They’d rather be nice to their sister than have no tv for a week! I even tried positive reinforcement – they received colored bracelets based on how well they portrayed the different fruit of the spirit that week – and it often turned into an ugly competition instead of regognizing God’s love in their lives. I pray they will eventually understand and occasionally I see glimpses already (or maybe I just convince myself I see it!)

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