Influence is NOT Guaranteed
A few years back, my oldest son was getting into trouble because he was being a little inappropriate with his teenage cousin. Thinking her very beautiful, he wanted to kiss her in a non-cousin way. Now, to be clear, he was seven at the time learning to navigate his feelings, and as his parents, we had several conversations with him on how this was inappropriate. However, he was not catching the drift so I ended up grounding him after his last attempt. That week, as he saw his therapist, my son told him how he was upset because he was grounded. My wife told my son to explain to the therapist what he had done that led to the grounding. So my son proceeded to tell his therapist, “I tried to kiss my cousin,” and followed the explanation with, “I asked google if you are allowed to kiss your cousin and google said NO!” The therapist concurred with google.
That is a humorous story, but it got me thinking. Apparently, in my 7-year-old’s brain, I am not the full moral authority in his life. I am also not the source of knowledge for his curious mind, but a google home device is. That is a scary thought-an AI device is the source of all the knowledge a child needs! Unfortunately, I am not a stand-alone case. Studies show that young people tend to go to their devices for the answers to life’s tough questions. The phone in their pocket, computer, or tablet is their sex therapist, fashion expert, DIY instructor, entertainer, counselor, and educator. Why have to muster the courage to ask a difficult question when you can anonymously “google it”? Now that leads me to another scary thought. Young people start to think they do not need adults at a younger and younger age. We all know most teenagers get to a point in their lives when they feel they know more than their parents, but now we see it happening at earlier stages in their lives.
As scary and absurd as it may sound, we all fall into this deception of knowing better than others. Let’s be honest; we are just wired this way as humans. We do this with God, we do this with authority figures, and we do this with peers. We shift our moral authority to try to find one that we agree with. We would rather keep our skeletons in our closets than muster up the courage to have an authentic relationship because of the fear of what others may think. We can find ourselves in a place where we never seek or desire feedback or advice because we believe we do not need anyone else. All of these thoughts are untrue and unhealthy, yet we naturally drift there. How do we change our thought process and help others, especially our children, navigate healthy relationships?
1. PROXIMITY IS THE 1ST STEP TO TRUST
You can never feel comfortable around someone you see from a distance because they will only be an acquaintance or stranger. You have to spend time with someone to start the process of trust. Too many times, we distance ourselves from our children, spouses, team members, and God. That causes a lack of confidence in the relationship either from us and, more notably, from them. You have to make a conscious effort to spend one on one and/or personal time with the people that mean the most to you in life. You need to date your spouse, you need to spend bonding moments, outside of a vacation, with your children, you need to have coffee or lunch with a team member, and you must carve out time for God. As you do these things, your relationships will begin to mean more, and people will learn to open up as they loosen up! Look at your calendar and ask yourself how much time you spend doing those things I just mentioned?
2. ACCESS IS GIVEN
We tend to believe that access is inherited. We think that because they did not approach us for advice, then it is their fault. However, many times it is our error because we did not create an environment where we are approachable. We haven’t given them access to us. We do this with our children as we get annoyed with all the questions they ask when they are young. Then as they get older, they do not want to ask us questions when the answers we could give would be critical for their growth. I have acted that way more than I care to admit with my children. We do this with those we lead as they feel guilty or ashamed asking us for advice. We do this with our spouses as they think they can’t share their true feelings because they are not sure how we may react. Are you approachable? If you haven’t been in the past, you must physically ask forgiveness and explain how you want to change that moving forward!
3. HEALING IS FOUND IN GENUINE AND AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS
One of the best ways to create relationships that go deeper is by sharing your true feelings, struggles, and past failures. Nothing gives others permission to be themselves more than being able to relate with someone they look up to; however, the opposite can be true. Nothing causes some people to close up more than a leader, parent, or spouse that they feel like they must impress. When we get to a place where we can be authentic because we know that nothing would keep that person from loving us, we get to a place where we can be healed from our hurts and grow towards our potential. Be vulnerable with those you love and watch them be vulnerable with you!
4. CONSISTENCY GROWS COMFORT
This is not a one and done scenario but an ongoing occurrence in your relationships. The more you spend time with those you care about, give them access to come to you with their questions, and show authenticity with your feelings and experiences, the more you will become a strong influence for good in their lives. Challenge yourself to be accountable with these checkpoints regularly and adjust when necessary.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT
This is how we need to view our relationship with God so that He is our moral authority and our source of wisdom. We need to spend time in proximity with Him in prayer, in the Word, and in church. We need to bring our questions, doubts, and struggles to Him as He said to cast our cares upon Him. We must remember that Jesus experienced every temptation we faced, though He did not sin, and He intercedes for us from that standpoint. Finally, we must be consistent with our relationship with Him in our spiritual disciplines!